Every once in a while you come across a story that not only inspires you, but one that shows how strong the will and determination of a human can be. Before I go into the story let me give you a little background of the race this story will all take place. The BAD WATER ULTRA MARATHON, also known as “the world’s hardest footrace” is a grueling 135 (That is not a typo yes a 135 miles, that is just over 5 marathons in a row) mile race in the middle of Death Valley. It starts at 280 feet below sea level and when you finish you are next to Mt. Whitney at a height of 8,350 feet. The total cumulative vertical ascent is right around 13,000 feet. If the elevation doesn’t kill you, you still have to battle the heat which temperatures at time will spike as high as 120 degrees. Runners literally run on the white lines of the roads so their shoes don’t melt in the heat. Each year 20-40% of runners who start the race fail to meet the 48 hour deadline.
Okay, now remember everything you just read and let me tell you about Shannon Farar-Griefer who will be running the race this year. Shannon is no stranger to the race though, in the past 15 years she has started the race 8 times and finished 6 of those. She also has crewed for other runners the other years she didn’t run. In 2001 Shannon became the first person to ever double the race. She not only ran the whole 135 but then ran back down to the start for a total of 270 miles. In 2006 Shannon was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Having such a strong running background has helped her out with being able to deal the pain. Any marathon runner will tell you the pain they go through during training and on race day, an ultra-marathoner endures double if not triple that.
Shannon will have quite the crew this year to get her through the race. Deena Kastor who currently holds the American records in the marathon, half marathon and numerous road distances. Jenn Shelton who is an accomplished ultra-marathoner who has set course records on some of the most demanding courses and author of the book “Born to Run”. Shannon’s husband will round out the crew to help out his wife as well. Shannon will be running with her left arm in a sling this year due to her left side weakening and her sustaining several falls over training. On Monday when Shannon arrived the race director surprised her by making her only the 12th member to be inducted into the Bad Water Hall of Fame. The heat will play a huge factor in the race this year and race officials said they will need to monitor Shannon because the heat can effect peoples body’s with MS, but they are happy that she will be attending again. Shannon wrote in an email her thoughts about skipping the race:
“I don’t know what next month or next year will bring, but I will make the best of every day, I want to run for those who can’t, and I want to show people that life can throw you a hit any time and you just have to try to continue doing what you love.”
I am in amazement over this courageous woman. Just running this race is an impressive feat, now throw in the fact that you are going to do it with your arm in a sling and probably endure more pain than any other racer on the course. I tip my hat to this lady. This is the type of person we should all turn too when we say “I can’t”, because she is proof that if you have the will and determination your body is capable of amazing things. She is also a person that shows us that you have to live each day to the fullest because you never know what tomorrow has in store.
The race started Tuesday at 8:00 pm and I am writing this at 10:45 pm Wednesday, I just checked her status and she just passed the 72 mile marker. All I can say is good luck on journey Shannon Farar-Griefer, you truly are an inspiration to the running community.