Under an Equatorial Sky
In most of our lives there exists a defining moment--a moment so significant that your life is forever changed. For me, that moment was September 13, 2003. I was anxiously watching my sons play in a Saturday morning soccer game. Never before had I felt such crushing pressure from an upcoming event. As my muddy boys left the field I felt overwhelmingly compelled to have a family photo taken. If something happened to me, I wanted them to have a picture of our family in happier times.
After the photo was snapped, I choked back the tears as I bid my husband and boys farewell. For fear of letting my inward sobs become obviously public, I looked neither to the left nor to the right as I walked with two of my closest friends to the car. We climbed in and started the long drive to Dulles International airport. My journey to the Amazon jungle of Brazil had begun.
Having a nine year history of running ultramarathons, running 30, 50 or even 100 miles in a day, though difficult and challenging, was not particularly daunting. But, to run 160 miles over six stages in unknown territory was quite a different story. Relentless heat and humidity, snakes, poisonous spiders, jungle cats of prey and swamps were not a part of my past experience. The dangers of this undertaking were real and the difficulty of the terrain was to prove unforgiving. Furthermore, the logistical difficulties of a self-sufficient race were mind-boggling.
From the moment I Ianded in Brazil, a floodgate of new experiences hit me from every side. The language, the people, the sights and sounds were all novel. From the pre-race shopping trip to the market to the day-long boat ride into the jungle, I stood amazed that I was at last embarking on my own personal adventure. Who would have ever thought that I, a mid-40’s soccer Mom, would fly into a different hemisphere to pursue some ill-defined quest? I had written books and articles about the high adventure of others but finally, this trip, this race, was my very own.
The six days of racing in the Brazilian Amazon jungle provided numerous opportunities for improvement: improvement in strategy, improvement in attitude, improvement physically, and improvement spiritually. The highs and lows experienced on a daily level were ever-changing and unpredictable. Unbreakable bonds were formed with fellow runners and race staff. And daily, the complexity of the ecosystem, the brilliant array of the starry equatorial sky and the cacophony of jungle sounds served as testaments to a marvelous creation.
The time in the jungle proved to be more than a race; it was an examination of life and priorities. It was a test of resolve and character. It was an experience of a lifetime not to be missed – and I would do it all over again!
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