At 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning an alarm went off for two sleepy people in a very warm bed. We got up, made coffee, packed up a few remaining things we didn’t pack the night before, and by 4:30 we were on the road to Timișoara. It was about a three and a half hour drive to Parcul Copiilor, or the Children’s Park, in which there was a paved one-kilometer track. Sam would run around that track all day.
Some time ago Sam signed up to run the S24H race and he has been training for several weeks. Runners could sign up to run 12, 24, or 48 hours around the approximately one-kilometer track! Sam signed up for the 12-hour race, and at 9:00 a.m. he began running his first lap.
Sam’s First Ultra, January 2016
Back in January 2016, right after Sam and I started dating (actually, I’m not even sure we had officially started saying we were dating yet…), Sam ran his first ultra-marathon. An ultra-marathon is any distance longer than a marathon (26.2) and the LongHaul Ultra was 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. Although several people had planned on coming to support him at different times, as the race drew nearer no one else was going to be able to come. The night before I cooked sweet potatoes for Sam to eat during the race and packed my backpack with schoolbooks and bananas. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, as it was Sam’s first ultra and I wasn’t really sure how to help him. We both remember it being a little awkward because we were still getting to know each other. I wasn’t always sure what he needed and he wasn’t sure how to ask me for something. Overall, however, it was a great experience. Sam did an excellent job in his first ultra, finishing first with a time of 10:25, and I enjoyed getting to be around him all day and offer him some type of help.
As we prepared for this race we both thought back to his first ultra and joked that it was going to be “just like old times,” but even better because we’re married now 🙂 Again, I prepared him food the night before and packed by backpack with books and we set off for the race together.
Each runner had a designated place in a tent along the course, so I had a nice place to set up all our bags and a picnic table to sit at while Sam ran around and around. In the morning it was overcast and cold, which was great for the runners, but I was freezing. I am perhaps a little more sensitive to the cold than normal people, because there were people around me wearing short sleeved shirts and my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel my feet! I walked all around the park to try to find a patch of sun and warm up. I actually enjoyed exploring all the neat things in the park though, and I was wishing Leah and Sam (my younger siblings) could be there to see it all as well!
Sam did great the first few hours. He would give me a thumbs up and a smile every time he went around, and every few laps he would ask me to refill his water bottle or get him some food. Around four hours I was still freezing, so I made sure Sam would be okay for a little while and I went to the car to get out of the wind and try to thaw. When I came back a few minutes later I asked Sam how he was doing and he said he was a little discouraged. He asked me to walk with him, so we began walking around the loop together. He got me some hot coffee at one of the aid stations and we walked a whole lap together. He was not sure why he was running, he felt bad that I was so cold, and he didn’t know if he wanted to finish. I told him not to worry about me being cold, because I really had warmed up and I did not want him to stop his race for me! I told him I didn’t want him to get injured or to do something he didn’t want to, but if he felt like he could finish I would be there for him and support him whatever he decided to do.
We finished walking the lap and he told me, “I’m just going to try to run a few more laps and then I’ll decide what to do.” And he went off to run some more. A few minutes later he stopped again to change his shoes, but this time he was much more encouraged. He was ready to keep going and finish what he had started.
While Sam ran around and around the track all day I was able to read a lot and write in my journal in between getting things for or helping Sam. I also walked around a lot to different parts of the park and watched Sam run by at different parts of the track. If I ever saw him walking I would just go up to the track and start walking with him. I told him I was his “personal crew and stalker.” 😉
While I read my Bible two people came up to me and asked me what I was reading. One of them just said, “Oh, the Bible,” and walked away. However, another man, who actually shared a tent with Sam, struck up a long conversation with me. He was struggling in his race, so he sat down to rest for a while and we talked about the Bible, the Old Testament and the Sabbath day, “types” of Christians, and also why I was in Romania, where Sam preached, and why I wanted to learn Romanian. I always think it is neat to meet new people with things in common wherever I am, even at a race in Romania. Since the runners went around and around a one-kilometer track I was able to see them all several times and I began to learn their names and which ones were feeling good or struggling. It was interesting to watch everyone’s progress and I enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the race and the attitudes of all the runners.
At some point Sam decided that he just wanted to get to 62 miles (his previous longest distance), then walk the rest of the time. He would run a mile and a half or two, then I would walk a lap with him. He continued to run and walk until he finished 62 miles in ten hours and twenty-four minutes, a minute faster than his time for his first ultra! After that he began walking and I walked several laps with him. However, as the time got closer to twelve hours he was ready to run again and he began running a lap or two in between our walks until the end.
At 9:00 p.m., when the clock hit twelve hours, Sam had run 110 kilometers, or 67.58 miles. He did it! I am so proud of him for finishing. He pushed through discouragement, pain, and exhaustion and finished what he began. Sam is one of the most disciplined and hard working people I know and he inspires me every day the way he always works so hard and never gives up, whether he is running a race, working on a project, studying, or evangelizing. I am so blessed to get to work with him and beside him, and I constantly learn from him to try harder and work harder.
12 hours. 110 laps. 67.58 miles. 1 very disciplined, inspirational person.
~ Julie Peters