Run Like a Girl with GOTR!

If “cocktail attire, sneakers optional” at the historic Drake Hotel sounds like your dream night out, you’re in good company! Our Run Like a Girl Soirée will take place Friday, November 3rd, where staff, volunteers, partners, and supporters will gather to celebrate our life-changing after-school program for 3rd-8th grade girls. More than 11,000 girls are served every year throughout 350 sites across the Chicagoland area. Through fundraisers, contributions and events like the Soirée, funds raised give girls the opportunity to participate in and benefit from our life-changing after-school program. Two previous Soirée attendees share why they support Girls on the Run and their  favorite parts of the event with us!

IMG_5249Jenny Dairyko-Hurt has made the Soirée a family tradition, inviting loved ones to celebrate and support Girls on the Run. This year, she plans to lace up her beloved Nike AirMax sneakers.

“My parents love it, they look forward to [the event]. Between getting cool gifts in the auction and knowing you’re supporting a really good cause…it’s really the only formal event that [my whole family] goes to. It’s just fun.”

Held around her birthday each year, Dairyko-Hurt’s now-husband proposed right before last year’s event, and she looks forward to celebrating at many more Soirées to come.

The Run Like a Girl Soirée aims to translate the enthusiasm of our end-of-season celebratory 5k to give guests a sense of the excitement that thousands of young girls feel every year. Attendees can learn about the program as they make their way to the finish line, with open bars featuring beer  as “Aid Stations” and food stations as “Runner Refresh.”

A lifelong runner, Dairyko-Hurt shared that her motivation to support Girls on the Run is due in large part to the unique and transformative programs it offers for young girls.

“Being an athlete as a young girl and having a core group of friends impressed upon me the importance of having shared goals – that’s really huge for confidence and self-esteem.”


Just as much fun as the all-night dancing and live music is inspiring and educating others about Girls on the Run’s mission, and supporter Emily Rozanski is sure of it.

“Exposing other people to the mission of GOTR who might have not come in contact with it otherwise is powerful,” Rozanski said.

According to Rozanski, the added perk of wearing sneakers is something that can’t be replicated at any other event. “Nowhere else can a woman go to a formal event wearing tennis shoes and be able to comfortably dance all night. It ties into what we promote through GOTR – we’re inspiring young women to be confident. What is being more confident than wearing a cocktail dress with running shoes?”

Purchase your tickets to our Run Like a Girl Soirée today! 



The Power of “I Can” – Reflections of GOTR Coach Sarah

coach sarah

I have had the privilege to serve as a GOTR coach for four seasons. There is a lot I enjoy about being a coach that I expected. I expected to love spending time outdoors running with the girls and I do. I expected to forge really special relationships with the girls and with my fellow coaches and I did. I expected to shed a tear or two at every 5K and I still do. But there have also been some things that have surprised me and those surprises have been really special.

Surprise #1 – I started out being really excited about what we could teach the girls – four seasons in, I am amazed at how much I learn from the girls and our lessons together. The messages of positive self-talk, being a good friend, and believing in yourself are a life long journey. Frequently when I was preparing or delivering a lesson, I would realize that it was exactly the lesson I needed at that particular moment. At one practice in particular, I was distracted by a difficult conversation I had that day with a colleague that had not gone well mostly because I had responded before fully considering my approach. The lesson that day was on the importance of taking a breath before responding in emotional situations. Pay attention coach!  I needed that reminder. It was encouraging to hear the girls internalize the lesson and offer examples of how they would use the lesson to handle difficult circumstances. I went home after that practice with a few tips from the girls.

Surprise #2 – Being a GOTR coach has made me fall in love with running again. It has reminded me how much goodness running has brought into my life. I never participated in athletics in high school. I was a skinny bookworm with asthma so I didn’t quite fit the “natural athlete” profile in my own mind. I never thought I was “good enough” to participate in a sport. I started running in graduate school as a way to manage stress. I did my first marathon several years later and then I was hooked.  Over the last 25 years, I have run 13 marathons, 25 ½ marathons, and lots of other great races.  Running made me believe “I can”. It gave me the gift of confidence, grit, determination and the ability to see myself as an athlete. As I started my first season as a coach, I was growing weary of running and enjoying it less. Seeing the girls run and grow through the experience of training for and completing a 5K has reminded me of why I love running. I am again grateful for the fact that running changed me in all parts of my life, not just on the track. My wish for the girls is that they have this same experience.

Surprise #3 – It is really tough to be a young girl today.  This shouldn’t have been surprising, but seeing the reality up close had a real impact on me. There are so many exciting possibilities, but also so much pressure to look and be a certain way, to make friends, to do well in school, etc. As someone who does not have children, I have been amazed at just how much is happening for the girls in and outside of practice. I believe in the messages and approach of GOTR and have seen it make a real and meaningful difference. One example stands out in my memory. During my first season there was a girl who seemed a bit quiet in our group. She didn’t always participate in every lesson and didn’t seem to like to run much. As we approached the 5k, she and I started to have a few more conversations about the coming race. She asked me to be her “running buddy”.

coach sarah spring girls

As we ran together that day, she shared with me her dream to be a doctor. She also shared with me some of the lessons she took from the season. She may have been quiet during the season, but it wasn’t because she was not paying attention. She got it all. She was working hard during the race and as we got close to the finish line she looked up at me and said, “Coach Sarah – I can’t believe we are almost to the finish line. If I can do this 5K, I can do anything!” I nodded and said “Yes, you can.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of making a special young girl believe she can do anything? 

Register today to be a volunteer coach at a GOTR site near you this fall! 

Badwater 135: Will’s UltraCup Finale


“Congratulations! You have been accepted to compete in the STYR LABS Badwater ultramarathon.” Yes! Yes! Yes! After following this event for 18 years, I would now have an opportunity, along with 99 other runners from 22 countries, to discover if I could complete the world’s toughest event: a 135-mile race in Death Valley, the hottest place on earth.

More importantly, I would use the opportunity to raise funds for Girls on the Run-Chicago (GOTRC) and promote gender equality. Those who have followed my progress in various articles will know about my motivations. In short, my two brothers and I were raised by a single mom. I am exceptionally passionate about this critical cause, and May this year I founded Echo a collaborative website to help promote gender equality (In early 2017 we will be launching the next phase of Echo’s evolution).

The next 5 months were super intense. So much to do in so little time. Miles and miles of training runs. Hours and hours of preparation, and lots and lots to worry about. Could I do this? Am I good enough? How am I going to get through it all? Before I knew it, it was race day and the alarm on my phone went off.

I awoke at 6:00 p.m. on Monday July 18th wondering where on earth I was? Oh yeah: Badwater, Death Valley, and in 3 hours I have a little run of 135 miles to do. I was actually feeling relatively calm and ready. We had arrived on Friday and spent the weekend preparing the support vehicle, reviewing the race strategy, and attending the race briefings. Everything was good to go.


The first big dose of nerves appeared as we travelled to the start line. “It’s ok Will, just remember the plan. You’ve got this,” Jane, my crew chief, reminded me. A support vehicle and crew are a mandatory requirement for Badwater where temperatures often exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit. There are no aid stations, and you need to store all necessary supplies in your crew vehicle. The Echo 37 crew were simply amazing and I owe so much to Jane, Andrea, Erin, and Rokas. They had arrived from all quarters of the U.S. to help make my dream come true. They delivered the brilliance of a Daytona pit crew by keeping me hydrated, happy, and moving forward. They were amazing, and I am so thankful for them.

The course starts at Badwater basin (at 200 feet below sea level, the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere) and heads 135 miles east to the Mount Whitney portal at 8,700 feet. The first 40 miles are relatively flat. Then you go 15 miles up to 8,000 feet. Nine miles back down again. 5 flat miles before the second major climb of 8,000 feet. Back down again. Followed by 30 undulating miles and a final 12-mile climb to the finish line.


After the customary national anthem, the race commenced. I plodded along at a 12 minute-per-mile pace trying to make sense of everything. There was a full moon and the night sky was beautiful. Gazing at the stars, I smiled whenever a shooting star flashed by and enjoyed the silence and stillness of the Mojave desert. Mile 2 arrived and my crew were on point to swap my water bottle and offer nutrients. They would meet me every 2 miles for the entire race providing about 250 calories per hour, ample water, and an army of encouraging words.

As the miles went by, my nerves calmed and I knew it was time for a sing-a-long. Something that epitomizes the serenity and tranquility of the desert… or not. My screeching vocal chords successfully ruined Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” and some poor desert creature must have been asking itself, “Who is Tommy? What is a dock? Why should I take his hand!?” The rest of the night followed a sequence of run, walk, swap water bottle, see shooting star, hear strange animal noise, get scared by shadow, scream a rock ballad, eat an avocado and humus wrap. Repeat.

Mile 20 delivered my first noticeable issue. The national park service is not overly keen on having its beautiful park defecated by 100 runners and their crews pooping everywhere. Accordingly, poop bags are supplied. Not your standard plastic bags, but amazing feats of engineering demanding a degree in quantum mechanics to operate. After a few desperate minutes I finally figured out what went where, how and why. Feeling a little lighter and a lot better I headed off into the desert.

The sun emerged at about mile 40 as the first major ascent arrived. After the mile 42 check point, pacers were allowed and Jane accompanied me half way up the hill before changing with Rokas, who took me to the summit. A very steep 9-mile descent was next. Descending is surprisingly tricky because if you go too fast you will trash your legs, and if you try and brake or go too slow you will trash your legs.

After a flat stretch of 4 miles, the next ascent commenced and this one was brutal. In additional to the obscene elevation, the second ascent also offered a very precarious stretch of road with blind spots, tight bends, and a significant drop over the edge into the valley. All of a sudden there was a loud bang as Maverick and Goose shot across the sky in their F-16’s. Witnessing Top Gun pilots do their stuff was super cool. They disappeared into the valley and I peered over the edge to see the top of the plane. I did wave to them, but they failed to reply, so I simply continued my journey.

The toughest part of the race occurred at mile 80. I desperately needed to stop. I felt awful to the power of 37. Nothing specific, just an all-encompassing sense of fatigue. Sitting in the van for a good 15 minutes enabled me to get myself back together before Erin accompanied me to the second summit.


After a more moderate descent, I faced a long 30 miles towards the base of Mount Whitney at a town called Lone Pine. The sun was setting as my brief respite of feeling completely evaporated. I started to fall apart. Aches, pains, and a massive blister appeared. My left ankle was not doing as I requested and the chaffing was excruciating. I was exhausted. Then my head fell off! No not really, but you know what I mean. What’s more, tiredness became a real problem. I desperately wanted to go to sleep, and keeping my eyes open warranted a pair of match sticks. Alas, none were at hand.

img_1809Andrea made the decision that I stop for 10 minutes for a power nap. I fell into the van, but no sooner had a put my head down to rest did I hear Andrea saying, “Wake up! We need to get you moving. Erin will pace you.” Argh! Really! So I stumbled out of the van for more miles of torture.
Arriving in the town of Lone Pine offered a huge sense of relief, but also an unexpected dose of sadness. I felt like I had just gone 10 rounds with Ronda Rousey, but now it dawned on me that I was approaching the end and I didn’t want this to finish. All that remained was the final 12 miles to climb and then this epic journey will all be over. After a few tears, I also realized that for the past 40 odd miles I had felt awful but now I started to feel great, so I started running and before long I was in full stride doing 9-minute miles. Go figure! I guess that’s why they say an ultramarathon is a metaphor for life.

All running immediately ceased at mile 131. Talk about saving the best for last. We now faced a climb of 4,000 foot climb over 3 miles. To borrow an English phrase – ‘that’s proper steep!’ We eventually reached the Mount Whitney Portal where Rokas, Andrea, and Erin were waiting. Loads of hugs occurred before we walked together holding hands and crossing the finish line after 35 hours 22 mins and 34 seconds to claim 31st place.


Badwater was everything I hoped it would be. Spectacular, fiercely difficult, and immensely rewarding. Thank you again to everyone involved: my mom for inspiring me to take on these challenges, my crew for all their hard work, my coach for all his guidance, and my amazingly supportive and world class colleagues at work and all my very dear friends for their constant encouragement.

Finally, thank you to everyone who donated to GOTR, and I will leave you with a request for all men and women, girls and boys reading this: Please continue to promote gender equality.


Donate to Will’s fundraising goal!

Click here to support Will’s gender equality initiative, Echo 37!

SoleMate September: Tim’s Meaningful Mission

I’ve been procrastinating this post for a while, and my blog was basically shut down while avoiding writing it. It’s a bit long, but I hope you take the time to read it.
On January 23rd, 2013, the world lost an amazing person. Jenny Carter Boyce was taken from us in an unspeakable act of domestic violence just days before her divorce was to be finalized. Now, three and a half years later, I am going to complete an Ironman in her honor.

Click here to continue reading Tim’s story on his blog.

Click here to donate to Tim’s fundraising goal.

SoleMate September: Leah’s Someday is Today


I’ve always been athletic, but I never enjoyed running outside. I never thought I was good at it, and I never pushed myself enough to try harder because I always told myself “I can’t.” About 8 months ago I changed jobs, which allowed me to work downtown, meet some amazing, inspirational women, and gain confidence in my athletic abilities.

It was at that time that I started running outside, and I quickly fell in love with the sport. At first it was difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge. I even made a New Year’s resolution to “run 15 miles per week, in preparation for a marathon someday.”

When Girls on the Run sent me an email asking me to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on their behalf, I was excited, nervous, and scared. I went back to that “I can’t” mentality, unsure if this feat is something I actually could take on. But, was this my “someday?”

Over the next week , I contemplated my options and realized that my running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon would not only give me the confidence in myself and my abilities, but I would be raising money and running for all of the girls who think they can’t. I can give the girl who “can’t” participate in GOTR due to financial hardship the opportunity to benefit from their life-changing program. The money I raise will help so many young girls realize they CAN through their participation in Girls on the Run.


I am so excited and honored to be running my FIRST marathon for such a wonderful cause.

A powerful message from Girls on the Run which I will carry with my throughout my training:



Thank you so much for your support and donation!


Help Leah reach her fundraising goal by donating here!

SoleMate September 2016: Sloan’s Biking Adventure


Whenever I talk about the Girls on the Run program, I literally get goosebumps. While in college, I volunteered as a coach for two years and also worked at a running store that was a major sponsor of the program in Michigan. I spent my winters fitting little girls stinky feet with running shoes. I know – gross, yet so fulfilling to chat with the girls who were excited to get started, nervous, or had done the program before and couldn’t stop talking about it. I wish I had had a program like this when I was younger, because the lessons the girls learn are invaluable. I encourage any parents of daughters to enroll them in this special program or volunteer themselves. I know from experience that the coaches get as much out of it as the kids!

Instead of running the marathon (I’ve been battling injuries and my body just doesn’t want me to run that far this year), I’ve decided to set out on a 200 mile bike ride to Grand Rapids, MI. I’ll travel about 100  miles a day, leaving from Chicago with my first overnight will be in Stevensville, MI at my mum’s house. Followed by another early morning, I’ll end in Grand Rapids at my best friend’s house. This will be my longest ride yet by over 100 miles! I love taking on challenges that I know will be tough, but I also know I can push through the difficult parts and complete it.


As of right now, this will be a solo ride in the first weekend in October, and a huge part of me is actually pretty stoked to do it alone. I have a lot to learn (what if a chain brakes? what if I get a flat? what if I run out of water?) and a lot of prep to do. But I’m mentally ready and getting physically ready by bike commuting daily, riding in high gears, and doing lots of plyometrics at the gym. I’ll start working out on tired legs soon to prepare for my second century day.

I am so excited and would love any support for my fundraising efforts, or tips and tricks for biking 200 miles!!!

~Sloan D.

Click here to support Sloan and to help young girls grow up to be healthy and confident!

Always give it your best shot!

pink shirt medal

Girls on the Run has changed my life by helping me make healthier choices and teaching me to always try my best.

Participating in Girls on the Run has helped me stay healthy. In one lesson, we were taught to understand what it means to be healthy. You may not love carrots, but they are healthier for you and more nutritious. I like eating healthy, because it makes my body stronger and faster. But health is more than just about what you eat. You also have to take care of your hair and skin, and your feelings and thoughts. It is important to be physically and emotionally healthy. For example, I need to get more sleep, but I am working on it!

Girls on the Run has taught me is that even if you’re not the fastest or the best player, you should still give it your best shot, and that is what really matters. Sometimes I miss when I shoot free throws in basketball, but it’s alright because I tried my best and that was good enough for me!  So even if you don’t win, it’s okay. Just never give up and keep on trying!

My favorite part of Girls on the Run is the lessons, because in each new lesson I learn something new and important. In one lesson, we learned to change negative self-talk into the positive self-talk.  I can do this by turning a situation around. For example, we talked about siblings – sometimes siblings can get very annoying, but if you focus on the positive, you could say how much you love playing and talking with your siblings.

Girls on the Run has helped me with life skills that made me want to make the world a better place as I grow older. All these lessons have helped me to stay positive, to make healthy choices, and to never give up!

~Stella H. 

SoleMates of the Summer: Sandra & Aminah


aminah and sandra bright


I became aware of GOTRC when my daughter Aminah was in 4th grade. Her school offered the program as an alternative sport for girls.  I love track and field – I ran in college and have reconnected with running occasionally during my post-college years.

I personally wanted my daughter to be active into sports and running, as a sport has the best mental and physical effects.  Additionally, I lost my husband two years prior and I knew that his death had a profound effect on Aminah.  After her father’s death, Aminah became very shy and withdrawn.  I turned to sport, activities and eventually running as a positive bereavement therapy for my two children and myself.

Since I was not employed at the time that GOTR was offered at my daughter’s school, I was able to volunteer my time with training the girls. We trained with about a dozen other girls in the spring of 2009 for 6 weeks (I think).  On race day, I was as excited as she was to run our first ever 5k together.  I thought it was a super awesome thing for each girl to share their race day experience with the participation of a parent, family member or loved one.  Thus, the seed was planted: Aminah enjoyed her experience with Girls on the Run and continued to run in middle school whenever the opportunity was offered.

When Aminah entered high school, she joined the track team.  When we learned that there was an opportunity for high school students at her school to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for charity, we both decided that we would do it together.  It was a way for me to reinforce a good value to my children, that being, a way to pass on our good fortunes and blessings to someone else.  In the words of Muhammad Ali – “The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”.

The summer of 2015 was a very exciting summer for me.  My amazing daughter amazed me even more as we trained through the scorching summer heat.  She was the one encouraging me when I wanted to give up (many, many many, many times—-because it hurt soooo much).   It was that ripe window of opportunity to make memories for a lifetime.  We would not have had the opportunity to share memorable moments and form a closer bond if we did not run together. On Sunday October 11, 2015, my daughter and I ran our first marathon together.

We look forward to training for our next marathon — maybe or maybe not.  Perhaps, it might only be running a few more hundred miles together just for the fun of it.



I joined Girls on the Run in 2009, when I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade. My mom thought it would be a good alternative to just sitting in after-school care and she wanted to introduce me to running, an activity she loved to do. I agreed to sign up since my mom was encouraging me to do it and a couple of my friends were also going to participate. Every Tuesday and Thursday, about a dozen 3rd through 5th grade girls met in my school’s library after school.

During our sessions, we did a lot of team exercises that involved talking to the other girls about the lesson topics and doing different physical activities led by our two coaches and my mom as a volunteer. Girls on the Run was great and never dull, compared to sitting around just waiting to be picked up. I looked forward to it every week. It was nice getting to know girls outside of my grade and talking about different issues and problems girls face. Getting physical exercise also made me feel really good. I think the fact that my mom was involved and the fact that she loved running made me enjoy the running even more.

All throughout our sessions, we were constantly reminded of the 5k run we would be participating in at the end of the program. I was completely freaked out about it. At the time, a 5k seemed as long as a marathon, and even though I was excited to run with my mom, I was also nervous because it was over 3 miles. I had never run a race that long. When race day finally came, my mom ran the whole race with me even though I kept stopping and complaining about how long it was. I may not have finished first like I had hoped, but I was so excited after crossing the finish line. I think training and doing the 5k with Girls on the Run gave me a huge confidence boost in my physical capabilities. After running the 5k, I felt like I could run any race and play any sport. My newfound confidence was the foundation of my running career and my motivation to continue running.

In 6th grade, I joined my school’s cross country team. We were a pretty small team – there were only about 6 of us, but I LOVED cross country practice. Our coach had us do different activities involving running around the local park. We did relay races and laps, and the work was tiring and a lot harder than Girls on the Run, but I loved it. I loved the feel of my feet pounding on the pavement, the burn in my legs, the satisfaction of finishing another lap without stopping. My training and 5k with Girls on the Run made me confident that I could do cross country and that motivation paired with my competitiveness kept me driven to keep going.

My first ever cross country race was in 2011. Again, I didn’t end up getting first place, but I was proud of myself because I kept running for most of the race, further building my confidence in my running abilities.

With all my running experience and confidence from middle school, I joined the Cross Country and Track & Field Team at my high school. During try outs, my coach placed me in the distance group and we trained through the fall and winter for indoor season. High school Cross Country and Track meets are a lot more serious, and you have mix of girls – especially the older ones – who look like professional runners. Throughout my time on the team, my primary races included the 800 meter race, the 1600 (1 mile) and 3200 (2 miles). Although I do love track, it’s much more competitive than even I enjoy. I like running just to run and don’t really do it to beat everyone.

I got an email from our dean about joining the school marathon team around December of 2014. I was instantly intrigued. As a runner, running the marathon is the biggest thing you can do. I was conflicted; on one hand, running a marathon was on my list of things to do before I die and joining the team would allow me to train, run, and raise money for a good organization. But a marathon is 26.2 MILES!! I had never run a race so long.

Several things eventually convinced me to run:

  • My mom said if I signed up she would do it with me, just like the Girls on the Run 5k.
  • Several of my friends were joining.
  • I could do something I loved while simultaneously helping other people by running for a charity.
  • I could cross something off my bucket list.
  • I thought training would help build my confidence more, and help my endurance in track.

I realized that this was just like when I was 9 years old and the Girls on the Run 5k seemed impossible. At 15, the same thing was happening again. The marathon seemed impossible too. If I could run a 5k at 9 years old, why couldn’t I also run a marathon? Reflecting on experience with Girls on the Run was the final push I needed to sign up for the team.

Training and running the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was one of the best experiences of my life. While training, I raised money for kids in Africa in dire need of clean water, a luxury many of us take for granted in more developed countries. I got to train and bond with my mother. I checked an item off my bucket list as a runner. Most importantly, I grew as a runner and a person. Training to run 26.2 miles is physically and mentally exhausting, but you come out better on the other side of it.

Let me be clear: getting through 12 miles on a hot summer day in July is not easy. You have to develop a positive mindset throughout training because the miles can seem like they stretch out forever. You have to keep the end goal in mind while running, keep pushing yourself, test your boundaries, see how much pain you can take, pull through to the finish, and most importantly, believe in yourself. All the confidence I gained from girls on the Run forward helped me push through training and grow as a runner.

On Sunday, October 11th, 2015, I ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, finishing in 5 hours and 56 minutes, as the 34,313th person to cross the finish line (YAY!!!). Running the marathon was grueling, and I was sore for a week afterwards, but the pain was a constant reminder of my humongous accomplishment. I would have never ran the marathon or become a runner if not for the foundational role Girls on the Run played in my journey as a runner. I am eternally grateful for the role that Girls on the Run plays in my life and the lives of girls across the globe.

~ Aminah

Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

Participating in an endurance event this year? Join Team Girls on the Run and help empower the next generation of women with the power of #ICan!

Badwater Salton Sea: Hissing Snakes, Humidity, & Hemingway

Goofing around on the Salton Sea trail!

Hello again everyone! One week until the STYR LABS Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, a 135-mile run across Death Valley and the third instalment of the Badwater Ultra Cup (the completion of all three races under the Badwater brand). I completed the Badwater Cape Fear 51.4 mile in March, and below is an update from the Badwater Salton Sea 81 mile race from May, as well as the Florida Keys 100 mile run.

Badwater Salton Sea challenged 35 teams of two or three runners (running together as dues or trios) to tackle a course both on road and trail across the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California. My good friend Jane and I would represent a mixed pair. After the usual check in and race briefing, we started the race and plodded along. The day passed with the usual run walk strategy and the heat encouraged us to drink water like it was going out of fashion.

Will Gane Badwater 2016 bib
My race bib – yes I am number 37 🙂
Keeping balance during Salton Sea!

We hit the trail section early evening. We are both fans of trail, and we both dialled into our favourite iPod songs and moved forward. I was listening to Barry Manilow. Yeah you heard me. Don’t diss Barry ‘Badwater’ Manilow. Exhibit A your honour: the song “Mandy.” Case closed. The song was in full swing when luckily, I noticed Ronda the rattlesnake slowly crossing our path. 3 more steps would have been followed by a love bite from Ronda, Jane running back down the hill, no medal, and several days in the hospital. Thank goodness my eyes and brakes worked! We carefully passed Ronda, who offered a brief hiss. Not sure if that was good luck or go away. I don’t speak snake.

Shortly thereafter we see a mixed couple team in distress. We stop to offer assistance in any way we can and continue on to realize that the steepest part awaits them. The golden rule in endurance events is that everybody helps everybody.

Team Echo 37, my movement for gender equality, crossed the line in a respectable 11th place in a time of 20 hours and 18 minutes. It was a great event! A  huge thank you to Andrea and her awesome dad for being our crew.

Next stop? The Florida Keys 100.

The Keys Ultra is a popular annual event offering a 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile run. The course is flat, and if you picked the 100 mile like me, you literally run down one long road across numerous bridges from Key Largo to Key West, home of Ernest Hemingway. For me, it offered the chance to conduct some serious heat training ahead of Death Valley, albeit humidity versus dry heat. Jane had agreed to crew, providing extra support along the way.

Hot & humid at the Florida Keys 100!

Starting at 6:30 a.m., I commenced a slow jog at about an 11-minute mile. The scenery was stunning with beautiful villages and amazing coastline helping the first 20 mile. Mile 25 offered the first glimpse of a problem. I did not expect to feel like this so early. What is wrong with me?, I kept asking (aside from the obvious decision to run 100 miles J). The sun had its hat on as midday emerged, and I was slowing down and beginning to suffer. Big shout out to the crews who not only cared for their own runner but any other runner. “Do you need anything? Water, ice? How can we help?”

At mile 40, I think Jane really knew I was in trouble. The famous 7-mile bridge soon appeared, which meant high winds, big trucks, and no fuel for 7 miles. A super scary experience even if it were cooler! Leaving the bridge at about 7 p.m., it was now full-on survival mode. No fast time today for this little runner, I thought. How am I going to finish?

As the sun set, I switched over from music to an audio book about the Iowa State legend Dan Gable to offer some words of encouragement. Did I mention I’m a Hawkeye ‘til I die? Remember the mission folks: this is about gender equality, not Big Ten loyalties. However, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Hersky donated to Girls on the Run!

Gable was famous for his mega work ethic, but even he was struggling to motivate me as I passed the 60 mile mark. It was possibly the toughest moment I have ever had in a race. Hemingway once said. “It’s not a sport if you can’t die.” This was officially a sport. It is very hard to convey how bad you feel. Self doubt, nausea, panic, stomach pains, muscle cramps, and an imposing feeling of fatigue. A constant battle with yourself and the growing need to sleep compels you to lie down and rest. Darkness creates insane hallucinations. Just keep moving, I tell myself. You try to recruit every trick in the book: childhood memoirs, moments of strength, fear of failure. You attempt to access every nugget of strength and repeat the immortal words of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.” Get to the next aid station.

Lights up ahead offered hope. Praying this was not my mind playing tricks, I was so relieved to see Jane. She helped me get to the car so I could rest and recover. 15 minutes later, I sat up and gobbled down salted crisps (sorry – chips) and composed myself. At least I had Jane to pace me for the last 30 miles.

The rest of the night featured a lot of walking, declaring war on all bugs, cursing the relentless humidity, and meeting a variety of other wounded runners. The happiness of eventually seeing the sun rise was accompanied by the threat of sun burn. Yay as another great crew shared their sunscreen! The final 3 miles seemed to go on forever, probably because I was walking slower than an ant with some heavy shopping. Running next to the beach, we saw couples walking hand in hand and people walking their dogs on a beautiful Sunday morning. The tears were on stand by as people started to clap and cheer us on. “Almost there!” “You got this!” “Just around the corner!”

Jane ran ahead to the finish line to take some photos. I saw her momentarily slow down to offer some words of encouragement to another runner. Then she turned a corner and was gone. Hobbling after her, a massive wave of relief wash over me. “You did it Will! That was tough!” The cheers became louder as I approached the end. After 27 hours and 14 minutes I crossed the finish, swiftly followed by sitting down, having a cold beer, going back to hotel, and lying down.

Florida Keys finish photo (after a solid few hours of resting first!)

Information about the race soon appeared. 45% of runners did not finish, which was up from 22% the previous year. Record breaking humidity for the event had forced many of the favourites to retire on a brutal day for all runners.

will and jane salton sea echo37edit.jpg
Jane and I representing Echo37.

However, it was a good day for gender equality as once again! Aly Venti dominated the race. 4 hours slower than her course record, she still won the overall 100 mile run. She is without doubt one of the best endurance runners in the world. In the 50 mile event, 9 of the top 10 finishers were women. Forgive me when I shout “In your FACE!” to everyone who has ever mocked a female athlete. Go challenge Aly to a run!

Echo 37 was launched the following week. A blog/website to promote gender equality providing insight as to how across of all aspects of world, from business to sport to entertainment. Echo is a neutral form of communication and 1937 is the year the great Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.

At 9:29 p.m. on Monday, July 18th, I will be standing at the start line in Badwater basin, 200 feet below sea level, next to 99 other runners about to go on a journey of a lifetime. I look forward to sharing this experience with you!

Until then, please support Girls on the Run, please promote gender equality, and in the immortal words of my hero Amelia Earhart, “Never interrupt someone doing something you said could not be done.”


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