I Ran 250 Miles Across Arizona in 4 Days
A Love Letter Disguised as a Race Report
May 11 2022
“I ran 250 miles across Arizona in 4 days.”
It’s the kind of thing you say now when someone asks “what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” or “what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”
“I ran 250 miles across Arizona in 4 days.” Try it, It rolls right off the tongue. “I ran 250 miles across a desert in 4 days.”
Then you think about how you lost all feeling in your feet for a week. How your lips burned and blistered bloody red, then white, and then red again. How all the taste buds on your dry and swollen tongue rose up in revolt and declared “no more Oreos! Never again!” Stripping off your socks at the end and counting the casualties, the toenails you knew wouldn’t survive the month. You remember your Joseph Campbell, and how you repeated to yourself “If you don’t go to hell, you can’t get the treasure. If you don’t go to hell, you can’t get the treasure. If you don’t…” But you still smile and say “I ran 250 miles in the desert in 4 days”
Then you remember you weren’t alone. You were out there with Matt Ross, who matched you step for dusty step, mountain for rocky mountain. Who was always ready with a delirious smile and a familiar phrase: “How you feeling?” Matt who convinced you to push your boundaries, and who pushed you through the race when you were down, just as you pushed him when he was down. Matt who’s always pushing you further. And so you say “We ran 250 miles across Arizona in 4 days”.
Then you remember that 160 runners fought through that desert, and up those rocks and mountains, and crossed that blue strip of rubber under the Cocodona banner in the end. Some ran faster than others, but that doesn’t change much. So you say “We all ran 250 miles across Arizona in 4 or 5 days”
Then you remember your crew and those who supported you. The medics at aid stations doctoring your feet. The volunteers at aid stations offering to cook you a burger, or bring you a tin foil bowl full of scrambled eggs and bacon. Rachel Ross, who traveled from aid station hauling bags of gear and recently bought burritos. You remember the pop-up tent with all of the gear exploded out in front if you. So you say “Not all of us ran, but we all went 250 miles in the desert, in about 4 or 5 days.”
All of these thoughts race through your mind each time you think about how you ran 250 miles across Arizona in 4 days, with 160 other people and a lot of support. These thoughts come and go like the little clouds of dust kicked up behind your shoes with each sandy step across the desert. These are all fleeting thoughts.
One thought is a constant. One person. Your wife, Cary, who is always there. She was there when you ran your first stiff and awkward mile. She was there when you ran your first marathon, your first ultramarathon, and your first 100. She was there before you ran 250 miles, laying the groundwork, planning, logistics, hotels, childcare, bag prep. She was there while you were running 250 miles, driving, hauling gear, delivering food, fixing feet, giving hugs, shouting encouragement, taking photos, updating family and friends, prepping sleep arrangements. She was there after you ran 250 miles, screaming as you crossed the finish line, hugging you no matter how bad you smelled, crying and proud of you no matter what happened. She’s always there. She’s always been there. You hope she’ll always be there.
20 miles to the finish, when your ego was crushed to powder and floating away on a cold morning breeze in the desert, the last voice you remember was hers. The first voice you heard when you came back was hers. In that strange born again moment, you realized that it's always been her, and without her none of it was possible. And so you had the strength to get up and finish.
So you say “I ran 250 miles across the desert of Arizona in 4 days. I had a lot of help, but without Cary it would have been impossible.” Now that rolls off the tongue.