My running odyssey began in 1982, when I was in 7th grade, and was shocked that E.T. (The Extraterrestrial) did not win the Oscars. It was not until a few months later that I watched and was totally inspired by the movie that had won: Chariots of Fire.
Chariots of Fire tells the story of the underdog British and Scottish runners competing in the 1924 Olympics, and how their beliefs inspired and transformed them. Famously, the Scottish runner Eric Liddle refused to compete in his qualifying race because it was on a Sunday. But the movie is centered on how their beliefs translated into effort, chasing goals and ideals, and transforming into success.
After seeing Chariots of Fire I started running- first pretty casually and with just a little training, and then with more structure and events. I quickly figured out that I wasn’t going to be heading to the Olympics. But, running was something that spoke deeply to me, and paralleled aspects of what I wanted to do in my own life. I felt that, like running, effort and persistence and chasing a goal are worthwhile. Treating and researching Adrenoleukodystrophy, and taking care of patients and families with leukodystrophies, are hard but important.
My favorite running is in the mountains near my home in Salt Lake City, at the top of Millcreek Canyon. I usually start early, in the dark, so that I can finish up and get home. The trail winds through the trees, and I use a flashlight where I can only see a tunnel of light on the path for 20 feet in front of me. But then dawn arrives, and I reach the ridge, and the sunlight opens up to show the mountains and valleys spread out below.
In every 100 mile race there is a time in the middle of the run, usually in the middle of the night, where things seem pretty grim. There is still a long, long way to keep running – like 2 marathons left! You have already been out there for 10 or 12 or 18 hours, with at least that long to keep going. It seems like a deep hole. But then – around mile 50 your friends (your “pacers”) are allowed to show up and run with you. There’s an aid station with hot chocolate. And incredibly, if you keep going, you can reach the finish.