Andrea is one of my good running friends, she joined my 24 hour team three years ago when she was not sure the ultra world was for her. In the three years since I’ve been witness to her becoming an “Ultra- Runner and a 100 Mile Finisher.”
Andrea signed up to run the 2016 edition of the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance race, and I paced her for the last 50 miles of her 100 mile journey. During that long night I got to wonder who is the more talented, the more relentless, the toughest runner. The record holders, the runners who qualify for the Olympics, the World Champions runners or the amatuer runners who put it all on the line for the only the love of the sport.
I’m not discounting the effort or dedication of these world class athletes but for my money the amateur athlete who has no chance to win the race but continues to grind may be the toughest of the bunch.
In 2003 when Paula Radcliffe was running for Olympic gold in Athens and things went wrong, when there was no longer a chance to win the race she pulled over to the side of the road and called it a day.
When I ran Umstead in 2015, a world class runner came to North Carolina hoping to win the race and set a new course record. When things went wrong, when the day turned against him he dropped out of the race.
Andrea’s Umstead run was going great when I joined up with her and fellow friend Wendy at the 50 mile mark. The three of us ran two laps together (25 miles) and everything was going as planned. Then some point after the 75th mile Andrea’s body began to turn on her. Battling an upset stomach, nausea, and retaining water that made her hands and arms swell to the point of pain and discomfort Andrea did what only a handful of people choose to do. She pressed forward. The miles leading up to 100 I suspect were the hardest miles of her life. In a battle with herself and the miles yet to travel Andre did not pull over to the side of the trail to give up, she went to work.
Andre did not quit when her stomach turned on her.
When nausea had her making unplanned and rapid trips into the woods Andrea never entertained giving in.
Andrea did not give up when her normally light and easy stride turn into a painful, and labor effort.
In the 16 hours I spent with her I never once heard her once mention anything but finishing what she started.
When we made the turn for the finish, when we were 100 yards from the finish line, I told Andrea how proud I was of her, “this is easy when everything goes right, when everything goes as planned, You girl did it when everything worked against you, YOU fought and are going to be a 100 MILER FINISHER and I’m so proud of you.”
My voice cracked and Andrea eyes teared up but she lower her eyes back to the trail and went back to work. Even in victory she battled to cross that finish line.
In 27 Hours, 12 minutes and 43 seconds, Andrea began an 100 Mile Runner.
She is one tough runner….