In the dark, dark night I could see a burst of light bouncing up and down out of the darkness and up the deserted mountain road. It was getting closer and quickly. It was silent in this high sierras forest and the stars of the Milky Way were lighting up the sky above us. There was no one else around this deserted camp ground but one last, lonely runner making her assent up Whitney Portal Road.
I knew exactly what I was seeing; the glow of her head lamp as she completed the last 134 miles of a 135 mile race that began at more than 200 feet below sea level in Death Valley California and ended at Whitney Portal at 8,360 feet. I know, it sounds insane that anyone would run this kind of distance, right and with the severe altitude change, it’s beyond intense! Last time we were in the eastern sierras the week that the race was being held and hundreds of sun burnt, exhausted miserable athletes were running through the one horse town of Lone Pine on their way to Mt Whitney Portal. This week, completely by coincidence we just happened to be camping at Whitney Portal Campsite the same week.
Earlier in the evening we had just been leaving the Whitney Portal store, stocking up on much-needed ice and lemonade after a brutal twelve-mile hike that I felt like was the hardest hike I had ever done. We were in the truck heading back to camp when we passed a runner half a mile from the finish line, puking. I felt so bad for the guy ( but I did know he was so, so close to finishing) and I felt like such a wuss complaining about the heat all day (75 degrees!) while here these ultra runners are, starting their run two days ago in 120 degree heat!
That’s why as I saw this headlamp coming towards me on the dark mountain road I yelled out into the darkness
“You are almost there! Your’e doing great!” I cheered and clapped and I heard an exhausted voice say
“Thank you” Out of the darkness.
Than I said to my boyfriend
“I can’t believe how fast she is running up this steep hill!!! At the end of a 135 mile run! That is absolutely incredible!”
I think she may have been one of the last runners to finish but it made me feel so great to encourage this girl to keep going and be that voice in the darkness.