Colorado snuck up on me.
My house sold the weekend I ran the Auburn Running Festival Half Marathon in late March, and I spent most of April packing, moving to a temporary apartment and working with a builder to finalize plans for our new home. I spent most of May catching up on all of the life stuff I’d let slide in the midst of the sale and move, like writing and supporting Taylor’s Tale.
Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time training for state number 13 or pitching my story to local media. And when I boarded a plane for Colorado, I thought I’d be happy just to finish the race.
But this journey has never been about running faster than other people, though I’m competitive and I like to run fast. It’s about telling a story and helping people like my sister, Taylor, whose goal as a runner was always simple and pure. Taylor didn’t care about where she finished or how that stacked up to other people. She only wanted a chance, and she gave it her best.
I came to Colorado without a connection, but Batten disease isn’t as rare as you might believe. I managed to secure some good local media coverage despite being preoccupied all spring, and when I talked to Austin Colbert, a reporter at the Steamboat Today newspaper, he said he covered a local family who lost their young son to Batten disease in the fall. And shortly after the local TV station aired my story, a woman emailed me and shared that her brother died from the disease 20 years ago.
The Steamboat Half Marathon, named one of North America’s Top 10 Destination Races by Runner’s World, starts at 6,990 feet and follows the Elk River on a country road that snakes through emerald green pastures with the snow-capped Rockies all around.
It’s a gorgeous course, and I wasn’t ready for it.
I started strongly enough, running a 6:28 mile to stick near the front of the pack. I held a per-mile pace in the 7:00s for the first eight miles.
Then, the wheels came off.
I don’t think the altitude ever caught up with me, but my calves and my quads burned (maybe I shouldn’t have done squats two nights before the race). A nagging tendon injury flared and fussed. As I often do during these races, I wondered how I’d ever make it to the finish line in my 50th state.
But somehow, I did. I’ll admit it – I walked for a couple of short stretches in this race – yet thanks to my fast start, I crossed the finish in downtown Steamboat Springs in 1:53, good enough to beat almost 90 percent of the field and probably most of the runners who live close to sea level, like me. And as I always do, I sprinted the final leg and drank in the beauty all around me, and I thought about how my sister can’t run or see any longer.
Next month will be the 10-year anniversary of my sister’s Batten disease diagnosis. Though even some of our friends are still surprised to hear it, Taylor’s Tale won’t save my sister’s life. We’re too late. But we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference for future Taylors, and we need your help to get there.
Deep down, I always believed I’d make it down that mountain on Sunday morning. And I have to believe we’ll get to the finish line of this race we’re running for people like Taylor.
Thanks to Austin Colbert of Steamboat Today for his story on my mission to run in all 50 states for the fight against rare disease. Read the Steamboat Today Story.
Thanks also to Kasey Ham of Steamboat TV for talking with me on the air. Watch the live interview below.
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Running for Taylor in 50 States: Alabama