No doubt I have some memories that Run Like a Girl has given me.. and after another successful event, I started to replay some really special moments that I am so grateful to have. Watching people cross finish lines, over come their fears and push themselves through challenges they never thought possible are moments I will never forget. So, this naturally inspired me so share a blog with some of my favourite memories so I could share them with you!
- Watching a woman complete her first ever race… two years after her mastectomy for breast cancer.
Yesterday, this woman charged through the finish line with tears in her eyes and ran right into the arms of her husband. She had friends and family all around her crying as well. Not an eye was dry around her, but everyone was smiling too. Being a race director for the past five years, I have seen a lot of tears from finish lines so I didn’t think this one was any different. Then she came up to me after the moment of the finish line and she shared with me this had been her first race ever… and that it fell on the same date as her mastectomy. She has been cancer free now and our Fight Like a Girl event for Breast Cancer stirred up a lot of emotions for her. It was a beautiful moment.
- Watching Pam, who swore she wasn’t a hiker, complete the entire Inca Trail on our RLAG Peru Adventure
She joked with us the whole trip that she was a flat lander, and that in Texas they just didn’t have mountains, or even many hills.. and the thought of walking up hill for hours in Texas just didn’t exist. But some how, when she saw the trip on Run Like a Girl, her and her daughter decided this was something they had to do. Every single day Pam battled the difficulties of the Inca trail, the steepness, the altitude, the cold, the crazy stairs.. and every day she came into camp into the arms of her daughter with tears and smiles. On that final day, watching her sheer determination as she climbed those final stairs towards the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu was unforgettable. Her face said it all.
- Watching Kristen conquer Cerro Ena at our Costa Rica
She had told me on email that she was nervous about coming on the trip because of the distance that we would cover on the “big hike day”. I told her that we are always well staffed and someone will be there every step of the way for you. I think right from the start she surprised herself as she found herself up near the front of the pack and reaching the summit with everyone. It wasn’t until the finish of the hike, when my husband paced her back to the lodge when all the emotions started flowing. She had a huge goal to complete the final stretch of hike (which has a lot of hills back up to the lodge) in 20 minutes… a fast time to complete it on fresh legs. My husband stayed by her side and she completed her goal. When she arrived back at the lodge, everyone was there waiting to hug her and congratulate her. I told her how proud I was of her… and she looked at me and said “You know… no one has ever said that to me before. When I first signed up for this trip, my ex-husband told me I shouldn’t have bothered to sign up for the trip because I wouldn’t be able to do anything. And now I have conquered the biggest challenge of my life, so thank you, I never give myself enough credit, but I am stronger than I think I am.” At this point, no one could hold back the tears… or the urge to have a group hug!
- Listening to break downs and break throughs during Savasana in Costa Rica
It was the last retreat of our biggest season and so we decided to add a new special element to the retreat. Our incredible yoga instructor brought her friend to play guitar and sing for us. At first, I will be honest, I was a little afraid with how people would react to something probably out of their comfort zone… or at least something thing weren’t used to. When we finished our first session that night and laid in Savasana, her voice filled the night and it released something inside most of the woman at the retreat. Once she was finished her song I could hear some people crying behind me, no one needed to explain why there were tears, there just were. Something about the moment, the music, the place, the people… it broke down our barriers and released something inside of us. We all embraced each other and let the tears and emotions flow out, so comfortably naturally.
- The greatest dance party ever
The whole damn retreat was one, giant dance party. Seriously. Right from the moment we picked this group up from the Best Western in Costa Rica, I knew it was going to be amazing. Most of them were solo travellers, but within the first 5 minutes on the bus, I would have guessed they had all been friends for years. We plugged in the buses tour microphone and took turns signing karaoke acapella, and laughing harder than I think I ever have. The rest of the retreat was just an awesome singing and dancing party… with yoga and adventures thrown in there too. I will never forget when we started singing a retreat staple “Pacha Mama” and by the second courses, people were up dancing with each other and belting out the song to the Pacha Mama surrounding us. This retreat taught me to just let go of barriers, and to forget about what people think of you… and it really drove home that we don’t have to grow up, that we can stay silly and carefree in many aspects of our lives.
- Changing locals lives in Costa Rica
When we first started our retreats, my husband was absolutely adamant that we needed to have a local team working for us. He hired a family to cook, clean and help maintain the lodge during the retreat. When I first started guiding our retreats 3 years ago, I couldn’t speak Spanish, so I couldn’t communicate with our staff. But every single retreat that ended, I would hug Martina, Roxanna and Luis and they would cry. I never really understood the full extent of their tears until this season, when I could finally communicate with them. They told me that these retreats, and Run Like a Girl has changed their lives. That they have a purpose in their life, and that working at the retreats has given them a better option for work other than picking coffee in the fields. Roxanna told me she could finally afford to get her kids into secondary school, where as before, their education would be finished after elementary school. And that Luis and Martina were finally being able to put money away to save up for their uch needed hip and knee replacement. I had never really thought about the impact I could have on others so deeply until this moment. Sure, we have changed peoples lives, making them runners, or inspiring them to try new things… but this is a family that the level in which we have changed their life goes far beyond inspiration. It actually shaped their lives to be better, more productive, and more enjoyable. And it gave their children a chance to have a better life too.
- Watching Carre Transform into an ultra runner
She came to our very first Costa Rica retreat. She was quite, and wouldn’t have described herself as a runner by any means. She signed up for the trip that was way out of her comfort zone, but she said she needed something to shake things up and break the pattern in her life. She came and just soaked up everything that Courtney and I shared about ultra-running and our passions. Now, three years later… Carre has come on our Squamish and Peru trips, is an RLAG ambassador and a serious ultra runner, ready to tackle the coastal challenge!!!
- Watching Kelly cross the finish line at the Coastal Challenge
The Coastal Challenge is not an easy race… 6 days, 155km, battling the heat, staying hydrated and well fed, and fighting the difficulties of 6 days of back to back running. Everyday she finished each stage with a huge smile on her face, proud of her accomplishments that day, and thankful to have another stage behind her. On the final day, I stood there at the finish line to watch all our runners come in… And I saw her enter the final stretch of beach towards the finish line. And she stopped running. She walked. I was confused at first as to why she wasn’t running into the finish the complete her biggest challenge. When she finally crossed the finish line and gave me a huge hug, she couldn’t hold back the tears. She told me “the whole week when you are running… you just want the stage to be over, you want to challenge to stop. But when I entered the beach, and I could see the finish line, I realized I didn’t want it to be over… so I walked to make it last longer.” I thought that was the coolest way to end such an epic challenge… by walking, taking it all in and processing the reality of what you just completed.
- Teaching people how to mountain bike at our Squamish Retreat
Mountain biking is a super tough sport, and even more someone who has been doing it for a few years, it still has its challenges. I will admit that it is still something that scares me a lot, but I have learned to push through the fears to practice the sport that I love. Being able to take people mountain biking for their first time is such an awesome experience. Some people, naturally are very afraid of it and decide that it isn’t really their challenge. But one woman in particular, Kim, took a huge liking to it and looked like an absolute complete natural! She kept me honest, riding closely behind me, following my tracks over all the bridges and features of the trail. When we reconnected at the bottom of a trail with the group she completely surprised me by sharing this was her first time ever mountain biking… I really hope she keeps it up!!