I am blissfully immersed in a community of lionhearted women who are conquering their fears while attaining their goals. Through treacherous terrain and harrowing forces that threaten to force them off course, these women persevere with unwavering courage until they’ve reached the summit of their aspirations. I bore witness to this kind of warrior this past weekend. This is my feeble attempt to reflect on her story.
Agreeing to pace Jodi Gallo for approximately 50k of the Georgia Death Race, I fully intended on taking my duties seriously. I was undertrained. She told me it might be slow - so I remained hopeful in my abilities. Years of crewing and pacing, both as a racer and behind the scenes, enabled me to feel adequately confident heading into our weekend. Whatever shortcomings came from my lack of speed, I hoped to make up for it with race insight into her nutrition and strategy. Jodi is a highly experienced runner, but she wanted to ensure a back-up contingency plan should her race not go as planned. I agreed. She is one of the best crew members and pacers around, so the chance to be able to return the selfless favour she has shown so many of us, was an honour.
At the Winding Stair aid station at mile 43, I had my pack on and was ready to go. Her predicted arrival time was conservative, and knowing the determination behind Jodi's mindset, I prepared early. I was right. At more than 30 minutes early, I recognized her immediately as she powerfully strode uphill towards us. I enthusiastically ran down to meet her. She was hurting...she was broken...she was smiling. I had rehearsed this motivational speech that was aimed at pulling her out of a funk and back on track. Although appreciated, my words of encouragement were not needed. She was fuelling her own fire...and it was burning bright.
I was set to encourage her to keep moving, eat when she could, and work towards the finish. Instead, I spent the next 9 hours following behind a fighter who had gone 10 rounds and refused to be knocked out. She was in full control of her destiny - repeating mantras to keep her legs fast, encouraging the other runners as she blew by them, and tackling each obstacle as an opportunity. The course attempted to ravage her. She fought back - with literal blood, sweat, and tears. I learned so much...and in a surprising turn of events, Jodi inspired me more than I could ever have inspired her. She paced both of us that day. I am so fortunate that I was allowed on her journey.
Jodi - you courageously forge your own path. In a world of impressive performances, your race at GDR was astounding. In a race created to destroy its runners, you refused to say ‘die’. You chose to push past excruciating pain, unimaginable fatigue, and endless obstacles. You chose to live - in the most triumphant way.
You are my trail hero.