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First Responders 2

I turned 61 on November 6. For my birthday this year, I wanted to do something to shake it up and test myself physically, so I decided to run 61 miles from Miami to Palm Beach. I started my run at 5 am in Miami, and the first few miles started sublime. I was feeling great and running at a nice pace. The night sky was full of stars, and the faint breeze was refreshing. Then I fell!

I was running on the sidewalk without my light on (duh), and my foot firmly hit an elevated section of the walkway, causing me to take a direct fall onto the concrete. I laid there for a minute, making sure I was still in one piece, before I slowly got up and dusted myself off. The road rash from falling put a damper on things, so I felt sorry for myself.

My default to ‘poor me” was commonplace. Humans are taught early on to avoid pain and injury, and my thinking was baseline normal; I was hurt. During these ultramarathons, I use an interval bell, which rings every couple of minutes. I run for a ring and then walk for a ring over and over again as long as my battery lasts. So, just like that “ding-ding,” I tried to start running slowly. Blood was dripping from my hand and elbow, and my leg was in pain. I was moving.

It was dark. I had over 12 hours of running in front of me. I said to myself, “Why me! Why me!” but I was running. Then, about 30 seconds later, while my rash was stinging, I heard a different voice, totally unexpected. The voice inside emphatically said, “Why not me!” I thought about it while jogging; many others worldwide have it far worse than I do. “Why not me” registered in my mind and psyche. I bought it! Yes, I was injured. Yes, 61 miles is a long way to go, And yes, I was feeling okay enough to try to keep at it and let the Chips fall as they may (pun intended).

I continued, and soon enough, the sun began to rise, giving me much-needed energy and morale. Seeing the beauty of nature always has a way of making me feel better, no matter what situation I’m in. Before I knew it, I was running on the Hollywood Beach Strip, and runners were everywhere! I was amazed to see so many runners and asked one of them if they were in a race. The runner said, “Yes! It’s the Hollywood Beach half-marathon.” I got excited because I had no idea there was a race going on, and this motivated me to pick up the pace and keep on truckin’.

When I arrived at the half-marathon finish line, I saw a firetruck and medics and asked them if they would treat my wounds. They were happy to do so and even congratulated me on running the race. I told them I was not actually in the race but had just run up from Miami Beach. Captain Bill said, “You are an ultramarathoner.” I said yes, I am.

From there, I had 45 more miles to go. I ran in heavy traffic on shoulder-only roads. I ran on sidewalks, grass, and sand. I ran through puddles, trash, and broken glass. I saw countless sights and good friends along the way. I endured ups and downs, showers and monsoons, sweltering heat, severe dehydration (blood), dizzy spells, and knee trouble. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

It was a unique way to spend my 61st birthday and push towards my limit. The last few miles were tough, and it took me nearly 15 hours from pre-dawn to post-dusk to reach my 61-mile mark.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my birthday extravaganza! If you’re ever feeling stuck in a rut or like you need to shake things up a bit, consider doing something outside your comfort zone – you might surprise yourself with what you’re capable of!

—William “Chip” Corley