Thoughts while running through the woods in the dark at 10pm

 Sometimes life doesn't happen how we planned.

Years ago I made a goal of completing a Ragnar Relay race. I've been a distance runner since my cross country days in high school, and though I'm not fast, I do have tenacity.

For those not familiar with them, Ragnar Relay races are point-to-point relay races covering about 200 miles. Runners sleep in their shuttle vans, nearby parks or school gyms, or wherever they can find a spot when they're not running.

However, before I was able to achieve that goal, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy. My narcolepsy means I suffer from insomnia, disordered sleeping at night, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Basically, I go through each day as if I haven't slept for 72 hours and I wake up each morning exhausted. Medication and supplements have helped me mostly control my symptoms, but I have a very specific sleep routine that must be followed. Even then, I am always tired and sleep is very important to me.

I've camped a number of times with my daughter and her Scout troop over the last couple years and I've been able to fine tune what I need to do to sleep while camping. There was a lot of trial and error (and days of bleary exhaustion when I didn't get it right), but I can now get a fairly decent night's sleep while camping.

A few years ago Ragnar added trail races to their race lineup. Runners camp in a park and run three different loops in the park. The total mileage is only about 125 miles and there's 8 team members instead of the 12 members on the road relay teams.

Because I know that I can get a decent night's sleep while camping, I realized that I could do a Ragnar trail run and still achieve my goal of running a Ragnar race.

 (one of my brothers and one of my sisters were on the team with me- I'm the short one in the middle )

I signed up for the Richmond Ragnar Trail race, which was held at the end of April. After we arrived and set up camp, I ran my first leg Friday afternoon, my second leg at 10 pm that night, and my third leg just after sunrise Saturday morning.

Running that second leg in the dark, with just the circle of light from my headlamp illuminating a short distance ahead of me was such a cool experience. Before the race I was worried I'd feel all alone in the dark woods. However, because of how the trail wound through the woods I could see the pinpricks of the other runners' headlamps scattered all around. I never felt alone or isolated, and it was one of the best runs I've had in a long time.

The next morning I watched the sun rise through the trees and over the small lake next to the trail as I ran my third leg. I don't see a lot of sunrises because of my sleep issues, so this was a fantastic, beautiful way to finish my goal.

Despite not training as well as I'd like because of a lingering foot injury, I had a great time. It felt good to talk running with my teammates, run the trails, and realize that despite all the physical challenges I've experienced, I can still push myself physically, try new things, and achieve my goals.

I enjoyed it so much that I'm planning on doing it again next year.


 (my view at 10pm that night)

Running gives me time to think through what's going on in my life, and I occasionally even manage to have some deep thoughts. One that I had while running through the pitch-black woods with just my headlamp to keep me company was:

There are many times we don't achieve the goals we set. Circumstances change: our health, our finances, our family situation, etc. But if it's a worthwhile goal, take a look and see if it can still be achieved by modifying it.

In this instance, a longer race with chaotic sleeping arrangements just is not doable for me. But a shorter race with a camping site where I can nap in between my legs is totally doable.

The thing is, when I was figuring out how to camp despite my narcolepsy, I wasn't thinking about running a Ragnar race. I was thinking about spending time with and supporting my daughter (and my sons when they're older) at Scouting activities.

That earlier, albeit unintentional, prep work made it possible to still achieve my goal of running a Ragnar relay race, even though it was a different race than I had originally intended.

Do you have a goal that you want to achieve, but don't feel you can? If so, I challenge you to re-evaluate that goal and see if it's achievable if you modify it. Maybe you've already unknowingly made some of the necessary steps towards achieving that goal, just as I did.


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