Unchartered Territory

After several months of hiatus from running events, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced most to be canceled or postponed, I felt desperate to squeeze one major race in July to make up for lost time and give myself an excuse to finally take a respite from running for my right foot to hopefully completely heal. Following a few rounds of prayers, I decided on a six-hour race at the Barn Blazin’, taking place on July 19, 2020, in Salem, Alabama, and signed up in the final evening of registration just three days prior. The event would take the precaution of commencing in multiple heats, each about a minute apart, amid the coronavirus concerns. I foolishly underestimated the unrelenting heat and humidity I would inevitably battle and remained oblivious to the course’s hills, tall grass, and lack of shades (as well as a venomous serpent some runners encountered and one of them courageously removed); I assumed the course to be entirely flat and comprise hard surfaces that would allow me to run smoothly and swiftly.

Post-race; the middle of the race felt hottest.

I drove two hours to the event location the morning of on barely two hours of sleep and entered this literally and figuratively unchartered territory, my first time in Alabama and first time racing in this desert-like climate, determined to reach the ultramarathon distance; nevertheless, I realized this would be verging on impossible from the very first mile, as my legs immediately felt the tiring effect of the uneven trail, not to mention the feels-like temperature ready to rapidly hit nearly 110 degrees. A fellow runner mentioned this day to be the hottest day of the year for Alabama and the radio on my drive to the race warned of the day’s condition. The one-mile loop, actually longer based on the GPS watches of all participants, concludes with a lengthy uphill, and after the first three loops of nonstop running, I wondered why I wasted so much energy running up this hill when I could walk up slightly more slowly with significantly less effort. Once the heat struck its peak and refused to back down, I became concerned my body, especially my head, would react adversely; I do not believe I had ever been exposed to such vicious heat outdoors, and I set out to run and/or move for a quarter of a day in it. I was baffled and entertained simultaneously that oftentimes running provided wind and helped my body feel cooler than walking. I psychologically struggled the most in the first couple of hours but had confidence time would start flying the latter part of the race based on experience, which proved to be true. Perhaps sharing several loops with a fellow Christian lady and discussing various interesting topics with her contributed to this, keeping my mind off the physical exhaustion.

Awesome runners I interacted with throughout the six-hour adventure!

They sting!

Upon completing my thirteenth loop, I discovered the volunteers had iced Coke and Sprite in their cool box, just what I had been pining for for post-race, and I recklessly drank a can of one or the other during every one of the next five laps or so, after which the race director and volunteers cordially did not let me drink any more soda for the remainder because they thought that unwise. I consumed unfathomable amounts of fluids throughout the six hours but never felt the urge to use the bathroom, testament to just how profusely I sweated. My legs had much more to give, evident by my easily passing multiple participants whenever I decided to speed up, but overall I took the race considerably conservatively for fear of heat, which added chafes to parts of my body previously unfamiliar to chafing, painful to say the least. Both of my feet developed major blisters and subungual hematoma under several toenails from the mushy terrain and my fingers swelled to almost double their regular size, worrying me that maybe my face was equally bloated.

I completed 21 loops, 21.45 miles in 5:46:14 according to my Garmin, and both oddly and understandably I did not feel ashamed by this result, given the condition that would have made simply standing (or even sitting) challenging. Merely two out of sixteen six-hour participants crossed the loop finish a minimum of 26 times, implying 87.5% of the field did not even arrive at the marathon distance. As always, I thank Jesus for protecting me throughout yet another one of my foolhardy adventures.

Objective Politics?

As dogmatic as I am and as much as I enjoy discussing and exchanging ideas, I stay reticent about politics on social media due to the bizarre sensitivity and self-heroic bigotry of this generation that would make personal diatribes against me inexorable and acrimonious partisanship extant in the United States that makes simply being impartial and veracious almost inconceivable. Prior to deciding to keep up with the daily news to educate myself on the current events in 2016, I neither paid close attention to politics nor deeply understood the two extremes of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, either of which most Americans unequivocally side with. I only recalled, in my childhood in Korea, my family watching CNN and thus posited its credibility. In the period I subscribed to CNN on YouTube, probably for over a year, I quickly became overly critical of President Donald Trump, unaware of the network’s agenda to vilify him in any way it could. I eventually unsubscribed from CNN and sought a more disinterested news network, mainly because 99.9% of videos CNN uploaded inserted a form of demonization and disparagement of the president as a universally agreed reprobate and I craved actual news happening around the world. This decision became an eye-opener, as I, ingenuous, started to notice how spurious CNN (and most liberal media) had been (and continue to be).

My dislike for the president’s rhetoric quickly reversed to my gratitude toward his boldly standing up for many of my core values and against issues I find most upsetting as a Christian. America was founded on Christian principles and values. Currently rereading the Book of Ezekiel, I was reminded there has never been a single nation in history God abundantly blessed that did not forget and rebel against God, Israel being the epitome. The United States appears to be no exception, as I have been disheartened and even furious to observe so many with their full bellies turning away from the Lord, ironically and hypocritically while invoking His Name. This president may seem erratic, tactless, and frivolous, perhaps rightly so, but he also became the first president ever to attend the March for Life, often uses his audacious and brusque attitude to condemn the wicked self-justifying murdering of hundreds of thousands of unborn babies being created in the image of God by God Himself every year, believes in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, does not embolden the practices of LGBTQ (although I do believe in loving neighbors, including those who identify themselves as such), restored Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, fights for Christian rights in the workplace, intently listens to and acts upon the words of prophets and servants of God, and has been working to bring back prayers in public schools that the Democratic Party unconstitutionally revoked and still suppresses. I have always believed God placed President Trump in the world’s most powerful position at this particular time for a reason, and I see that more clearly each day.

My goodness…

I continued to examine shameless inveterate conniving by the leftist media, notably CNN’s mendacity of staging hired workers with props to fit a certain narrative following the 2017 London Bridge attack, filmed and revealed by a bystander, besmirching the impeccably reputable Justice Brett Kavanaugh into an alcoholic gang rapist just to stymie a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, depicting a kindhearted Catholic teenager being antically approached by a Native American “Vietnam War veteran,” which proved to be a lie, with a cut-up video as a smug racist villain solely for wearing a MAGA hat outside the Lincoln Memorial and consequently subjecting the boy to countless death threats, consuming the nation with the Russia-collusion hoax for over half the president’s first term, and impeaching President Trump in the most despicably perfidious, unscrupulous, and unfair process this country probably has ever witnessed. The leftist hatred of the president led some of them to even side with the world’s most wanted terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans, when the Trump administration disposed of him.

Now, the leftist media, as they always do, push forward their incendiary agenda to divide the nation using the race card in hopes of securing the election in November. They distort the truth to whatever fits their narrative, for instance hiding the facts that police brutality has been on the decline and far more unarmed white people than black people have been killed from this real issue based on the statistics for 2019, and galvanize fools into violence, looting, vandalizing, and arson in the name of “systemic racism.” In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these virtue-signaling radical leftists graciously accept an arsonist setting a church on fire but argue those who go to church should be arrested, almost tantamount to their desire to grant clemency to and release all prisoners to prevent the spread of the virus among them while advocating for imprisoning those who do not abide by the lockdown rules. Anarchists continue to dominate Democrat-run cities amok and attack the history of this nation, taking down statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, and other prominent historical figures and burning the American flag, the most anti-American acts one can imagine. The “woke” liberal celebrities join and defray the bails of these America-despising criminals who have been quite literally destroying this nation and should be locked up for years, if not decades. The liberal media encourage prodigious protests, effrontery, public funerals–exploited as rallies against the president and the Republican Party–for lifelong criminals they portray as heroes and martyrs (while banning civilians from even attending their own families’ funerals), and other events germane to their election agenda where tens of thousands of people gather; nevertheless, as soon as an event involves the president, this time his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they denounce him, that he has no regard for other people’s lives. Liberals promulgate “Black Lives Matter” while the affiliates of this openly Marxist, anti-Semitic, and Antichrist organization that utterly ignores the leading causes of black deaths unveil their own discrimination, forcing some arbitrary innocent white people to kneel before them while physically assaulting others, even a 92-year-old woman who was shoved to and hit her head on the ground, and rendering the entire police force as pure racist and evil for the action of one anomalous officer, with the self-righteous sententious Atlanta mayor firing a white officer self-defending and the corrupt miscreant district attorney of Fulton County, under investigation himself, charging this officer with murder and allowing a potential death sentence. I could not help but laugh at the hypocrisy of these sanctimonious race-baiting racists labeling others racist and starting this virtual civil war while playing the victim. The leftist media deliberately omit countless incidents of actual black (and other) victims of these violences, including a venerable African officer who served the force for decades and was shot and killed by a domestic terrorist, as this goes against the picture they want people to perceive, while tech giants also continue to silence conservative voices.

Based on my observation, generally the most privileged are the ones habitually complaining about the oppression and unfairness of this nation. They love to say, “When was America ever great?” To those so Americentric to entertain this arrant stupidity, please travel to or even study several countries outside the United States, and you will comprehend just how rare these extents of freedom and capitalism are in the world. Try behaving like these criminals in Russia, China, North Korea, or anywhere in the Middle East or South America. These television whiners becoming millionnaires without doing anything useful speaks volumes for how great America is; in many cases, they themselves with their unhampered success debunk the myth of “institutional racism,” albeit I do not demur to the existence of racism and police brutality.

Due to my passionate tone, I may sound biased, but remember I spent a long period obtaining “news” from CNN, during which I probably censured President Trump more than most, and now rely on ABC News, another liberal platform but nowhere near as unprofessionally chauvinistic as CNN, and BBC News, one of the most objective news networks. My values align far closer with conservatives than liberals, but I do not want to be dragged to either extreme, the reason I do not watch much Fox News, the most overtly conservative network, either. I only care to do right in the sight of God; therefore, I support what I believe God supports based on my prayers and understanding of the Bible.

To Remember This Pandemic

Seeing Atlanta, Georgia, would welcome an unusually cool weather on April 10, 2020, and will return to hot and most likely hotter following, I, in spite of the lingering pain in my right foot and knee, decided to take advantage of this rarity and registered for the virtual Coronavirus Relief Half Marathon, hosted by Virtual Strides. I hesitated to run another virtual race but recognized nobody would have the option to participate in a normal running event for the foreseeable future and also wanted to complete a race exclusive to the current COVID-19 pandemic to look back on down the line. The creative finisher’s medal depicting the coronavirus, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper certainly enticed me. Above all, my most recent embarrassing virtual half-marathon performance last month did not sit well with me and I needed to redeem myself just to feed my ego.

This time, I fueled properly as I do in a regular race and mentally prepared certain routes in my notoriously hilly neighborhood so that I do not accidentally trap myself on solely relentless hills again. I found the major contrast just from these minor adjustments, plus the drop of 20 degrees in temperature, between these two virtual races amusing; physically, the first unexpectedly became one of my toughest half marathons to date, while today’s felt to be one of the smoothest and easiest, so much so that I was tempted to go far beyond what I signed up for. I hit 13.1 miles in 1:58:40, but just in case of the minor inaccuracy of my Garmin, like I do in every virtual race, I kept running and concluded the adventure at 13.54 miles, with an elevation gain of 676 feet, in 2:03:00.6. (Again, I am confident I covered closer to or possibly even over 14 miles, as my GPS generally shows a shorter distance than the actual.) In a typical race setting, I expect to finish a half marathon around 1:50:00 or under, but running my first comfortably sub-2:00:00 13.1 miles in a run done alone without the help of adrenaline rush felt like a milestone, especially adding the aforementioned injuries that began bothering me four miles in.

Happy Good Friday! Sunday is coming!

Coronavirus Run

To celebrate my 31st birthday on March 14, 2020, conveniently on a Saturday when most running events occur, I had in mind to run a 50K, 31.07 miles; however, with my right foot still unstable, I decided to err on the side of caution and register for the Montgomery Half Marathon, taking place in the eponymous city of Alabama. Two days later, participants received an ominous announcement email that the city mayor will determine whether or not the race will carry on the following morning at 9:30 AM CST, which he postponed another hour and a half just to announce his decision to cancel the event due to COVID-19. As selfish as this may sound, I became infuriated that he would halt an event of this magnitude that clearly involves numerous individuals booking hotels and traveling from afar on less than 20 hours’ notice instead of several days sooner, in which case I would not have signed up at the peak of registration price or booked a hotel.

Acknowledging asking for a refund to be an uphill battle, I became so upset I skipped lunch. A virtual race, which I do not enjoy, would have been the only sensible mitigation, but the event continued to ask entrants in a friendly humorous tone to simply “pinky promise” to run a 5K or half marathon in the next 30 days for the finisher’s medal, which did not sound legitimate. I emailed the race director directly, asking if he would allow me to run on Friday, March 13, 2020, from Atlanta, Georgia, after which I would send him photos of my Garmin statistics, selfie from the run, and registration information along with my mailing address for the company to mail my finisher’s medal and “SWAG.” I added I want to feel that I earned my finisher’s medal and this more formally sounding virtual race would help me more easily justify the hardware.

Once I had the race director’s approval, I immediately took off without much food or fluid in my system, not realizing the sudden spike of outdoor temperature into the 70s and my neighborhood’s abundance of rolling and extreme hills that normally exhaust me within four miles; I encountered hardly any flat part throughout the virtual race, and my pace predictably took a hit from the beginning. I even had to walk several times towards the end mainly going uphill, and I felt like I was mountain running. Because I did not presume such a drastic increase in temperature, I did not prepare sufficient water and ran out of hydration with approximately five miles to go. (I initially thought about running without my hydration pack. Thank goodness I did not.) For a 1:47 half marathoner to take 2:27:31.8 to cover 13.46 miles, even with the elevation gain of 840 feet, I was both disappointed and humbled. (I always run farther in virtual races because I only have my Garmin, not as accurate as actual measuring, to confirm my distance, and I am convinced I completed closer to 14 miles.) I can never run anywhere near as swiftly alone as in a race setting, and I know for certain if I ran the original course on race day with proper fueling, I would have come close to another sub-1:50:00.

My friend mentioned if I chose to run my 31st half marathon because I was turning 31, which I did not even think about but makes this run more meaningful. Hopefully I will never have to run another virtual race, but I prefer this to losing money for no reason. Now that I am done vomiting nonstop, I simply wait for the race director to mail me my finisher’s medal and the remaining accessories I paid for.

2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

This past Saturday, February 29, 2020, I had the privilege of attending as one of thousands of spectators the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, held in the infamously hilly Atlanta, Georgia. Knowing the unfathomable (for me) Olympic Trials Qualifier standards of 2:19:00 in the marathon or 1:04:00 in the half marathon for men and 2:45:00 in the marathon or 1:13:00 in the half marathon for women, I acknowledged I was in the presence of the best of the best in America, which inspired me and should have every member in the audience. I even witnessed at least three women running pregnant and two clearly injured but refused to give up on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Probably like most fans, I knew the big names but did not know the vast majority of the participants; however, I wanted to be intentional in my cheering and yelled out as many names as I could read off their bibs. (I assume I butchered at least half of these names, so I apologize in advance!)

Galen Rupp’s triumphal return relieved me, as he had recently DNF’ed at the 2019 Chicago Marathon following major surgery. I felt even happier watching him continue to give glory to God in post-race interviews. I was pleasantly surprised to see NCAA legend Molly Seidel come in second and secure a spot on the Olympic team in her marathon debut, just like Rupp did in 2016, especially after her battle with OCD, with which I struggle daily as well. As a wannabe ultrarunner, I rooted for the king of ultrarunning, Jim Walmsley. For a trail runner who competes on rugged terrains in insane distances coming down to “only” 26.2 miles on the road and finishing in 2:15:05, especially factoring in the combination of vicious hills and wind, Walmsley reinforces how gifted of an athlete he is. I was disappointed for Jordan Hasay, Molly Huddle, and Sarah Hall, only because I know they have so much more in them, but this also shows how unpredictably brutal the sport of marathon can be. Des Linden, despite coming so close to making her third consecutive Olympic team, had an amazing performance, and I hope to see her capture her second Boston Marathon title on April 20, 2020.

Congratulations to every participant! You are an inspiration!

Men’s 2020 Olympians

  1. Galen Rupp – 2:09:20
  2. Jake Riley – 2:10:02
  3. Abdi Abdirahman – 2:10:03

Women’s 2020 Olympians

  1. Aliphine Tuliamuk – 2:27:23
  2. Molly Seidel – 2:27:31
  3. Sally Kipyego – 2:28:52

The Journey Continues

As I often do, I signed up for a race at the last minute, two days prior to the event, this time Augusta University Half Marathon in Augusta, Georgia, on February 22, 2020. In a transition period in the state capital approximately 150 miles northwest, I wanted to make the most of the relatively free time I do not know I would have again once I land a new position. Following my recent 74.2-miler, I could not tell how much my body and speed had recovered, not to mention my left pinky toenail recently finally broke off; nevertheless, my latest casual run on rolling hills gave me confidence a large portion of my fitness had returned and prompted me to register.

At the Expo, a veteran suggested I tag the name of a fallen soldier on my back during the half marathon. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all active and former service members, but I wanted what I did to be intentional and not for show and apologized for not taking up on this. I decided to participate in this race for my enjoyment and was not willing to pretend I did so for a cause, which would appear admirable but be disingenuous.

The half marathoners toed the line in 28 degrees, and a lady wearing a jacket running her first 13.1 was perplexed I would dress so lightly, after which I warned her she may not enjoy the extra layer soon. No one knew the details of the course, as the organizers did not share an elevation chart. Some runners from the area said there should only be one minor hill, so I anticipated mostly flat and took off at a swift pace only to discover a one-mile climb on the fly beginning near mile 7, followed by a brief flat break and another steep climb. Just for that mile my pace slowed down drastically, but what goes up must come down and an equally lengthy downhill awaited. I let gravity take over and carry me down and went all out to compensate for the slow mile. My second half resulted in a major negative split, with my final full mile and the rest at a seven-minute-mile pace. Just past 11 miles lined up photos of fallen soldiers, United States flags, and volunteers, to whom I repeated, “Thank you.” The last person in the section seemed to remember me from the previous day as he pointed at me speaking to a veteran who had asked me to carry a name.

With so much of the unknown in terms of my recovery and the course, I had set low expectations; thus, I was elated to cross the finish line in 1:50:20 in my first race that started in 2020 (my recent ultra went into the New Year). Thank You, Jesus!

Goodbye, Kearney

1,576 days, nearly half a decade, full of good and bad, my time in Kearney, Nebraska, at last came to an end. Believing this day would come much sooner, I continued to hint at my “leaving soon” for a couple of years to the point most of my friends did not take me seriously this time, like The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Prior to coming across the position of International Recruitment Specialist at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK), the term Nebraska had never exited my mouth. UNK offered to sponsor me for an H-1B visa during my grace period of Optional Practical Training Program, meaning I would have had to remove myself from the United States otherwise, and subsequently agreed to sponsor me for a green card (minus the medical fees). Although I believed this to be one of the primary reasons God sent me to such a foreign place, especially in the first half, I debated whether or not the green card was worth accepting the way my former boss and the few of his nepotic minions treated me. One time following a phone call with the boss, I became lightheaded in fury, knelt down, punched the floor, and rushed out of my office, impulsively thinking about quitting because I could not find any reason that justified my having to tolerate such disgusting evil. Here, my Christian colleague stopped me, put her hands on my chest and back, and prayed for me, which calmed me down. The adversity continued, but I learned to deal with it more efficiently each day, albeit the long-overdue firing of the boss, who really should have been imprisoned, did make this much easier.

When I initially submitted my resignation letter in June 2019 with the intention of moving on the following month, the new head of the office asked if I could continue to work for UNK remotely half-time until I found a concrete plan for my future. After praying about the matter, I took the offer, planning to explore different parts of the country to see where I would like to live next while working wherever I want; however, I ended up spending most of this golden opportunity still in Kearney, one of the reasons I decided to fully resign so that I feel more desperate and do not have any comfort holding me back. Even while working half-time, my workload remained the same, if not more, and I continued to do three or four colleagues’ jobs on top of my own while they took credit, not to mention I always worked well over my hours.

This pretty much sums up my last 4+ years in Nebraska!

Just this past week, God gave me back-to-back-to-back messages of confirmation and encouragement, which boosted my confidence to move on. The last Sunday of 2019, due to the major snowstorm that had just hit central Nebraska, my regular church closed; I barely made it to the location to find this out the hard way, after which I spotted a different church I had never attended that still held an 11:00 AM service. Here, the pastor emphasized, “God is the God of the promise. He is not the God of your timing,” which echoed in my heart, that God’s Word never fails and He will fulfill what He has promised me not when I want Him to but rather when He wills it. Throughout my time in Kearney, I learned a valuable lesson not to set my own timing, which led me to decide in my head I was leaving soon and sell much of my furniture over a year in advance and live in almost an empty two-bedroom apartment for the remainder. This same Sunday, the Korean church of my mother and father sent another message directly to me using a verse given to me as a child, Genesis 28:15: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Here, the pastor highlighted “wherever you go,” that wherever we decide to go, God will be with us; as he so beautifully expressed, “It is God who is with you and not you who are with God.” Even if Jacob had decided to go elsewhere, God still would have been with Jacob. As the pastor added, we need to move and take that first step for God to work in us; if we stay still and do not take any initiative, God cannot work. Lastly, in my final (24-hour) race of 2019 that carried into the new decade, I finished at 74.2 miles, 119.413 kilometers with which God reminded me He rescues me (119 is Korea’s equivalent of 911) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). How could I ever doubt God?

This was essentially my office once I began working remotely. I will miss you all too!

As lonely, stressful, and challenging as this journey has been, God continued to provide. Focusing only on the positives, my Father gave me a gift I had been begging Him for since childhood and used me to spread the gospel and even turn one student to Christ, I became a permanent resident as early and smoothly as I did due to the lack of international competition/demand in Nebraska, and I completed forty races that include a 102-miler, a 74.2-miler, a 50-miler, two 50K’s, two marathons, twenty-six half marathons, and seven 10K’s during my time here, which would have been highly unlikely elsewhere. Perhaps most thankfully, I found the perfect church for me, the senior pastor of which started the same Sunday I did and contributed significantly to the strengthening of my faith, and used much of my free time, often hours a day, thoroughly reading and studying the Bible. Towards the conclusion, I made many new faithful Christian friends that made this departure difficult, which I never saw coming. I deeply appreciated most residents here identified with Christianity and I never had to filter my faith to avoid hurting sensitive individuals who do not yet know Jesus.

My training in Kearney is complete. What is next? I do not have my life figured out yet, but I have confidence I am making the right decision to take this leap of faith moving forward, because God will be with me wherever I go.

119.413

To distract myself from the inevitable loneliness of the holidays, I eyed a three-day race in Phoenix, Arizona; nevertheless, I do not participate in a race of this magnitude without God’s clear green light, and after praying about the matter with my faith mentor and mother for a week, we all concluded no, especially with the lingering injury in my right foot. I also came across a 24-hour race, requiring the runner to go around a 1.06-mile loop in either direction however many times he/she can (or wants to) within the time limit, in San Francisco, California, and after praying about this as well, I registered to take on this poetic challenge of finishing the last day of the previous decade and starting the first day of the new decade running at New Year’s One Day. Leading up to the race, I faced a multitude of obstacles—a major snowstorm that made driving out of central Nebraska hazardous, my first flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, being delayed 40 minutes with the layover time already being tight to begin with, and running across the Charlotte Douglas International Airport to barely catch my connecting flight—that I felt simply toeing the line would be a victory in itself.

PC: Foggy Bay Photos

I cannot remember in recent times being this nervous before a running event, dwelling on this insane last-minute decision to run what should be the second-longest race of my life and not entirely understanding the state of my right foot. I atypically thankfully managed sufficient sleep and thus did not question my ability to stay awake all 24 hours. With the foot less than 100%, I could only keep the faith my Father would shield the injury; after the initial minor stinging and my praying over it, the foot no longer posed a risk and lost my attention. I planned to take my first break around what became my second-fastest 50K, of 6:19:15, when I felt the initial sign of fatigue. Whatever prompted this, I began singing worship songs I was listening to out loud, and all of a sudden my strength was renewed, allowing me to carry on thinking I would be a fool to snap this flow now. I took my first sitting break after 40 miles, just over 8:46:00, solely to conserve energy to last the entire race. I continued to converse with God and recite the many biblical verses I do every morning and felt such a physical presence of His being with me and providing for me that I said to myself I would stop complaining about the uncertainly of my future with this God, Who is interested in every minute detail of my life, for me and by my side.

Slightly past 50 miles, personal record of 12:07:35 in the distance, by an hour, I lied down for less than 30 minutes to give my feet well-deserved rest as my external battery charged my Garmin and iPhone. My body temperature predictably rapidly dropped and as I arose my legs started to feel heavier. The biggest struggle revealed itself between here and 100K, another personal best of under 17:30:00, by over 2.5 hours, likely psychological with this being my bare minimum goal. Once I secured that 100K+ buckle, I released pressure and thought more casually, “Now it is just about how much farther I can go than 100K before the end.” My feet and legs continued to lose power and gain pain, thanks majorly to the numerous blisters, and with several hours to go, I could not help but halt after only two loops. When I miscalculated in my head how fast I would have to move to reach 70 loops prior to 24 hours, I desperately sped up without a pause, not knowing I had more time than I thought. Crossing the timing mats for the 69th time, I, already hallucinating, acknowledged most likely this next one would be my last. Towards the end of this final loop, I drastically slowed down to the point of almost dragging myself; although I had roughly 35 minutes to complete another loop, I had no confidence I could sufficiently do this before running out of time; a top female in the 12-hour race missed her final loop completion by eight seconds and consequently the entire loop did not count. I had already exceeded my expectations by a small margin, and I decided to conclude my race and wait for the official closure of the event.

Amazing and inspirational people!

70 laps, 74.2 miles, enough for bronze in my age group of 30-39, I converted this into kilometers for my family and close ones, most of whom more familiar with the metric system, which came to 119.413 kilometers. These wise people commented on the significance of both the numbers 119, Korea’s equivalent of 911 and that God rescued me, and 413, Philippians 4:13 to which I dearly hung on, that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God not only rescued me here but rather even more so in my drive back following the awards ceremony from San Francisco to San Jose, with there never being a vehicle around each of the countless times I was struck by microsleeps, and past midnight from Omaha back to Kearney, where many lights turned into balloons and cars continued to dance and switch lanes in front of me. God will forever be my 119 and 413, and I thank Him for this entertaining reminder and the wise individuals who helped me interpret this. Thank You, Jesus!

My Garmin was pretty accurate this time.

This wraps up my most-active race year, which included a 74.2-miler, a 50K, a marathon, eight half marathons, and four 10K’s. Happy New Year, everyone!

Yet Again

I opened Thanksgiving 2019, like the last three years, running my fourth consecutive Wild Turkey Chase 13.1 in Pickrell, Nebraska, the familiar flat trail I had already conquered on four separate occasions. I recently reset my frozen Garmin, not knowing this would format all the saved data on the watch, and for the first time maintained the auto-lap to read each of my mile times rather than only the average mile pace of the whole. I decided to use this standard method here but fretted I may not as easily be able to tell my estimate finish time this way. With the temperature hitting just below 30 degrees, my preference, and acknowledging this to be my final half marathon of the year, I set out to run my fourth sub-1:50:00 in the distance, which I have accomplished twice on this course.

I have been reading Deena Kastor’s New York Times Best Seller Let Your Mind Run and consciously applied her motivating tactics and positive attitude to push forward. Rather than solely focusing on my own running, I would pick one runner in front, gradually catch up, and then gently pass without forcing the pace out of my norm, the process I successfully executed several times throughout the race. I found this more thrilling, as running alone does not motivate me as much to pick up the pace. When my earphones ran out of batteries with four miles to go, instead of panicking this could slow me down, I reminded myself, after being grateful this did not happen sooner, most elite long-distance runners do not even listen to music when they run and thought optimistically this may help me concentrate on the rhythm of my breathing and strides, as I counted one-two-three-one-two-three and one-two-three-four-one-two-three-four.

As I thought, because I did not know my overall average mile pace, I could not tell how much faster I had to go to reach my goal and moved forward with every ounce of my remaining energy. Aside from the very first mile of 8:08, I ran my fastest mile of 8:12.3 in the final full mile and most likely secured a negative split in the second half, still not sufficient and crossing the finish line in 1:51:03, third in my age group of 30-34. Everyone has good and bad days, so I remained content simply knowing I could not have done more this particular day. In this period of uncertainty and all that I have been dealing with mentally and emotionally, I, from the start of the run, in my head said, “Running is easy,” as I know clearly the task ahead of me. At least, for the moment, I do not have to stress over my future, perhaps one of the main reasons I so habitually sign up for long-distance races that also happen to play an accurate metaphor for life.

As I prepared to celebrate this holiday alone at Golden Corral again, I checked a text message from a church friend inviting me to join her family, which I strangely predicted beforehand. I told the family she saved me from being “emo” again. Happy Thanksgiving!