Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My 50 miles a day

These days, an empty calendar makes me very, very happy. Whereas I used to get excited by a busy, multifaceted day, now, when I know that my time is not going to be split up between meetings, appointments, commitments, or chores, I feel lucky and blessed. Thus blissfully uninterrupted, I will have time to work on my schoolwork. And by schoolwork I mean thesis, thesis, thesis.

A couple of weeks ago I was interested to read this article on Aspiring Mormon Women. Then, even more interested, I found this one, from the NY Times.

As a synopsis: there is a girl named Keila Merino who teaches elementary school in New York and runs ultramarathons in her spare time.* Her training miles add up to over a hundred every week, even when she's not training for something big. But these days, she is.

In 1978, a beautiful, lanky South African grandma named Mavis Hutchinson ran across the United States from Los Angeles to New York in seventy days. She averaged around forty miles a day that whole time.
That is the distance between Salt Lake City and Provo peeps.
On foot.
For more than two months.

This year, under the auspice of raising money for a children's running group in New York, Keila set a goal to beat Hutchinson's record and do it in sixty-eight days. Math= she would need to average almost fifty miles every day for the length of time between Independence Day in July and Labour Day in September.

I happen to love ultra-sports--particularly endurance running--and I discovered all of this on the very day that a new leg of my own race was starting.

It is my goal to submit my thesis in 58 days. Those who have written a PhD dissertation know that it is no mean feat. It has taken me almost three years just to do the research (and I still feel like I could fill up another year!) Writing is a different beast altogether. As in an ultramarathon, where a twisted ankle, dehydration, nutrient-deficiency, inclement weather, or any number of a score of unexpected setbacks could derail your whole plan (as it did Keila's in the end-- #spoileralert), lack of discipline, material, quality, or confidence, personal problems, sickness, writers block, or any number of other issues can derail even the best, most dedicated of students. And I don't even claim to be one of them.

But reading about Keila and Mavis, and thinking of the ultramarathoners I know in my life (speaking metaphorically rather than literally), I found a new identity:

I Am An Ultrarunner, and My Race Is Not Yet Over. 

With that identity comes determination: if Mavis Hutchison and Keila Merino can run twelve hours every day for two months, I can most certainly work on my thesis the same (taking Sundays off). If they can give up personal comfort and put their bodies under that kind of wear and tear, not to mention the mental stamina required, I can resist my warm bed and embrace the cold, pre-sunrise mornings while I get up and get going. If they can keep putting one foot in front of the other through heat and rain and cold and wind, I can walk to school happily, forego social activities, eat the same lunch four days in a row, and set aside any time-consuming habit or tendency that is not helping me move closer to my goals.

Keila's beautiful sunrise shot
Doing something like running across the US or earning a PhD has a tendency to zoom-in your life to only include those things that matter most. For the past three years, I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been the same person I was before. As I've worked to get through this race, I've had to adjust my priorities and cut back on activities and relationships that I might have put a lot more time and effort into before. Yet I've also learned that there are some things that must always be priorities. For me, these are:

1) my Heavenly Father and my responsibilities to Him
2) my family and my responsibilities to them

So, this is my plan: Keep running. Take each day as it comes. Don't worry about the future but just do your best today. And, take time to enjoy the scenery as it goes by--to appreciate the views you get from the road. I know when this race is over, I'll be better and stronger for having run it. I love it.

See you at the finish line!


*Ultramarathons are any races longer than a traditional marathon. The most common distances for ultramarathons are 70 kilometres, 100 miles, or longer.


  1. Just reading this makes me excited for you!!

  2. I love you girl! You go get that diploma!

  3. Baby and I will be standing at the finish line waiting for you :D