Kathy Sebright

Writer. Speaker. Believer. Runner. Truth Enthusiast.


Leave a comment

The journey of 100 miles

Originally posted at http://53riverbankrun.com/blog/roadwarriors/2014/09/02/the-journey-of-100-miles/

The journey of 100 miles begins with a single step, but more specifically it begins this Friday at 4pm! After nearly half a year, it all comes down to this.  The course limit is 30 hours so obviously that is my goal, but really my bottom line goal is just to get out there and do everything in my power to reach that 100, no matter how long it takes. There are certain things in life that you just know are going to hurt you, change you, and promote growth in you. Running 100 miles for the first time ever is one of those things. It’s going to be hard – really, really, really hard but it certainly won’t be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I have this small polished silver stone that has the word believe deeply etched on it. If you run your hand across it, you can feel the outlines and grooves of the word itself. I’ve clutched that stone numerous times in my life. I’ve turned that stone over and over in my hand as I watched my little boy being wheeled away from me in a hospital bed not knowing if they’d ever wheel him back to me.  I’ve felt the weight of that stone in my pocket as I  fought back tears and pinned down my scared, wild-eyed and thrashing 2 year old son to put in yet another IV.  The stone was on the counter the day I held my son’s MRI in my trembling hands. That one thought from the rock “believe” was on my mind time after time while I watched my son unconscious and seizing wildly on the floor in front of me. Believe that he will be ok somehow or someday and if he’s not, believe that I will be ok with that somehow or someday. That’s all we can do is believe.

So what on earth does any of that have to do with running 100 miles? Nothing really. And kind of everything. For me, the two are linked. They are undeniably, inextricably tied together, running and my son’s life. Running is not only the way I heal myself but somehow the way I heal my son. I absorb the power in these miles. It transforms me and helps me project that hope onto him. And as we are facing another skull surgery for our son this month, I need that power and I need that healing. 100 miles is so much more than just another race, it’s our life. It symbolizes the long, treacherous road we’ve been on with the most desperate of lows and the most joyous of highs. Just like the race, we don’t know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to play out, or how much suffering there will be – we only know to keep going, forging ahead to that finish line, and believe that it will all be ok, somehow or someday. IMG_2151

September is Craniofacial Awareness Month. Just one of my son’s major health issues is that he was born with a birth defect of the skull called Craniosynostosis, but no one knew. He went undiagnosed the entire first year of his life. His official diagnosis came from his surgeons at 14 months old. Craniosynostosis inhibits brain growth and can cause intracranial pressure, seizures, eye problems, developmental delays, and more if left uncorrected. Symptoms to look for include an unusual shaped head, a hard, raised ridge along the affected suture, and a soft spot that closed too early. If this could be your child or a child of someone you know, I encourage you to speak to your Doctor. Knowledge is power and we need more power! And with that short public service announcement, I leave you. Look forward to one wicked race report coming soon!


Leave a comment

Nothing worth doing is easy

Originally posted at http://53riverbankrun.com/blog/roadwarriors/2014/08/06/nothing-worth-doing-is-easy/

Last Saturday, I woke up at 4 am because today was the day. Today I was really going to run 50 miles.

As I got dressed, I felt a glimpse of what Clark Kent must feel when he changes into Superman. Here I am: just a regular person, a mom of 2 kids, married for 10 years, working a normal job, and doing normal things like losing my car keys and quick washing the dishes in the sink before I have to leave. But once I put on my running gear and lace up my shoes, everything changes. I am not a normal person anymore. I am stronger, faster, braver, and more capable than I was before. I am someone different: an adventurer, a fighter, and someone willing to test their limits.

Adele, a former Road Warrior from years past, joined me at 5:30 am and we set out to run 50 long, long miles. I had a pit in my stomach, the nervous and excited energy that you get before you do something really big or something you are not so sure of. There was no turning back now. I hit the start button on my Garmin and we ventured into the dark with only our headlamps to show us the way. 50 miles

The first 30 miles I must say, flew by. We talked, we laughed, we joked around, we took pictures, we told stories, and we bonded in a way that only fellow runner friends can. There is something different about running alongside someone early in the morning for hours on end, it’s something realer and truer than anything else you can do. There is no need to impress anyone, there is no way to skirt who you are at the core because it just comes out whether you want it to or not, your guard comes down, and your secrets feel safe between the two of you and the ever growing road beneath your feet. And for the first 30 miles, we stuck side by side, drinking in our long run, enjoying each other’s company, and unburdening our past, present, and future. It was nothing short of amazing.

When we stopped for food around the 30 mile mark and I realized how much longer we had to go still, something became unhinged in my mind. I started laughing hysterically – crazy, maniacal laughter that I couldn’t quiet. I was laughing so hard I was crying while my running partner Adele, and my husband/crew chief, looked at me like I might be losing my grip. No one else was laughing but me, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make myself stop. It was exhaustion, desperation, and anxiety coming out. Things took a turn for the ugly very quick in the 30’s.

100 signThe miles ticked by slower than anything I had ever seen in my life, we were running indefinitely and hysteria threatened to overtake my fragile mind. Everything hurt, the sun was blazing down on us with no end in sight, and we were only now just over half way there. Both Adele and I were struggling. One of us would feel better while the other felt worse, then the roles would reverse. The fun run was officially over, now it was more like a death march to the end. There’s not much I can say about those miles except they were extremely hard. The range of emotions that rises up in you when you’ve been running for 8+ hours is staggering and uncontrollable. Tears for no reason, anger for no reason, and complete and utter exhaustion for good reason, When running is no longer fun, you have to remind yourself why you are doing it and what you want out of this. It was hard to remember during some of the dark miles. And then it was like running through a fog that suddenly lifts, because around mile 41, I found a second wind. I ran with renewed passion, finishing the last 9 miles faster than the first 9 miles. Watching Adele fight for it was awe inspiring too. It didn’t matter what was happening, she was still moving forward, always moving towards her goal. We both finished hours over our projected goal time of 12 hours, but still, I consider it a wild success because we both finished. keep running sign

In running, in life, and in nearly everything, we have a choice. Keep moving or quit.  It’s as simple as that. So when you want to quit, remember why you are doing this, remind yourself what you want out of this, and fight for it if it’s worth it to you.


Leave a comment

Emmett’s Endurance Event-the original

Originally posted at http://www.runjunkees.com/junkee-logic/runjunkees-runner-of-the-week-kathy-sebright

I was staring down at my running shoes when they turned blurry; the tears I had been fighting back falling quickly and quietly. My legs were shaking and my heart began to pound wildly as I stared at the treadmill. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. What am I even doing here? Why did I think this would be a good idea? I glanced at my husband and saw a familiar subdued panic in his eyes – a reflection of my own. Every unreasonable bone in my body screamed at me to go, get out of here, get my son, get in the car, and drive as far south as I could get. I could feel the fear rising in my chest and I suddenly felt like I was about to be sick right then and there. It was now or never. I stepped onto the treadmill and hit the big green start button.

It is June 20, 2012 just another Wednesday for most people. But I am not most people. I am 3 hours away from home, on a treadmill in a tiny windowless room on the 10th floor of a children’s hospital. There is no amount of training, nothing I could have ever done that would have prepared me for this day. My 15 month old son is with a team of surgeons a few floors below me. He is undergoing a 7 to 8 hour cranial vault reconstruction, which means a team of highly skilled surgeons are cutting open my baby’s head from ear to ear, removing his entire skull, breaking the bones apart, reshaping them, and putting it all back together correctly with plates and screws in order to give his brain enough room to grow.Unbeknownst to us, our son Emmett was born with a birth defect of the skull called Craniosynostosis. The sutures in his skull were closed at birth, inhibiting his skull growth. For the first 12 months of his life, he was a happy, seemingly healthy baby boy. Just a few days after his first birthday, we found him unconscious and seizing wildly in his crib. This one day, this one event would alter the course of our lives forever. Not only would this lead us into a major, invasive surgery to fix his skull but routine pre-op testing would bring us completely unrelated, more bad news about his brain. As they laid diagnosis upon diagnosis on our baby boy – it was like an anchor around my neck growing heavier and heavier. We gathered a team of 16 specialists, we started forcing numerous medications down his throat each day, we went to multiple weekly therapies, and spent an insane amount of hours each week watching him undergo extensive testing and fading into the halls of the hospital.

The anchor was paralyzing at first, so heavy I could hardly bare it. In the midst of the worst turmoil I have ever known watching my little boy suffer so greatly, I did the only thing that still made sense, the only thing I could control. I went for a run. Having been a dedicated distance runner for about 8 years at that point, I knew the healing qualities in running. I ran and I cried. I ran and I prayed. I ran and I screamed. Sometimes the pain and anguish that came pouring out during a run scared me, but I kept running. I ran until my legs ached and my lungs burned. I ran until I could feel the anger, shock, fear, and helplessness slowly leaving my body. I continued to run in an exhaustive zombie-like state in between hospital stays and testing. Each time I returned from my run, that anchor felt just a little bit lighter. It was during one of our 3 hour back and forth drives to the hospital that an idea formed. I am not a woman of inaction; I can’t just sit in a waiting room like a normal person. I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to run.  I decided to run for the entirety of my son’s surgery; the greatest show of solidarity I could muster, the only thing that still made sense. If he must endure this surgery, I can endure my own special brand of pain in his honor and so I started training for the longest run of my life. I was no stranger to the marathon, but this would be far above and beyond what I had ever done. Emmett’s (virtual) Endurance Event was officially born. I made a Facebook event, a race bib with his picture, and encouraged family and friends to do something active on that day with me. It was a show of support for Emmett, even though he was too young to understand it, letting him know he wasn’t alone in this and raising awareness for Craniosynostosis in the process.

Back in the tiny windowless room, the monotony of my footsteps begins to threaten my sanity. It’s no longer soothing. It’s a quiet room with only my pit crew – my running expert husband and marathon running pastor. My footsteps echo loudly in my ears, to the point where I consider plugging my ears to drown out the noise. In my head, I am a thousand miles away: far away from this treadmill, this hospital, and this new life. In my head, I ran away from all of this. But in reality, I am here. Running and waiting in this agonizing state of the unknown.

To pass the time, my husband reads to me and shows me pictures from Facebook. Somewhere in the middle of our crisis, the most amazing thing happened. The running community and strangers from all over the world united with us for Emmett’s Endurance Event. I saw endless pictures of people running, biking, walking, golfing, jumping on the trampoline, gardening, swimming, Zumba, Crossfit, lifting weights, band practices, meetings, and more.  All of these people dedicated their workouts/daily activities to Emmett, holding up a picture of him. Hundreds of messages, prayers, and emails flooded in completely overwhelming us. We were rendered speechless by the response. I wasn’t alone in this tiny windowless room at all, over a thousand people were right there with me.

Hour 6 was the hour that almost broke me. I was physically more exhausted than I can ever remember being, I was running on empty and desperate to stop. Everything hurt – my legs, my feet, my head, and my heart. I was scared. I was tired. I wanted to see my son. I was choking back tears. But I don’t give up; it’s just not who I am, stubborn as an ox if you ask my husband. Failure was never an option for me. My son has no choice in his surgery and if he can’t stop, then I can’t stop either. There comes a point in every race when your heart must carry you because your legs can’t do it anymore. It’s sheer will power. It’s what you tell yourself you have to do, what you tell yourself you MUST do and right now my legs were taking orders from my heart.

Hour 6 is something that will forever live on in my mind. I will never be fast enough to be considered an elite athlete. In reality, I am far from elite. I am slightly overweight and although I run a heavy load of miles each week, I am still a comfortably middle of the pack runner. I am quite average and I have no qualms about that. All these facts aside, hour 6 made me feel like an elite athlete at the top of their game. I was all heart, all soul, all passion, gritting my teeth and bearing what I thought was once unbearable. Never in my life had I felt so very weak, but yet so full of power. I certainly didn’t look powerful but I was doing it. The simple fact that I was still moving was about as powerful a statement as I could make.

We did not ring in hour 7 with a picture and Facebook update as we had every single hour before. If you ask my husband Tony, he will swear my eyes were glowing red and I growled at him when he brought the camera over, but I’m pretty sure I just said “no picture.” One of my closest friends (and fellow runner) made a podcast for me to listen to and gave me explicit directions to listen to it when I was at my wit’s end. This was it. Hour 7 – there were no wits left. I cried and laughed in a barely comprehendible fashion. No doubt at this point, my pit crew was sure I had lost my mind. I listened to it over and over until the call finally came. My son was out of surgery. 7 hours and 26 minutes after I first stepped on that treadmill, a different woman stepped off it. One that knew there were no such things as boundaries and limits. I had run exactly 36.2 miles with an average 12:19 min/mile pace. It wasn’t about the pace at all, but secretly I was hoping to keep it in the 11’s. I told myself that is next year’s goal.

523674_3005112545226_513170556_nEven though I was exhausted and my legs were like jell-o, after a quick shower, I was rapidly walking down that hallway. I wanted to kick open those double doors, push everyone aside, and run as fast as I could to that recovery room. Just as I willed myself to keep running at the end, I now had to will myself to calm down and not start running. Emmett recovered from surgery well and went home within a week. He had 2 different shorter, surgeries since then as well but I did not run for those. He continues to face challenges with his health but is resilient and strong.

Ask me to talk about Emmett’s Endurance Event and I will start crying, every single time. People think they can’t make a difference in this world and that they are only one. But to someone like us, going through that, every single one of these people made a difference just by taking a picture, sending an email, and sharing in this difficult time in our lives. The people that participated in Emmett’s Endurance Event made a difference in our lives, forever.

On June 20, 2013 exactly one year after Emmett’s surgery – I took to my treadmill once again in an effort to continue raising awareness for Craniosynostosis. I collected names and dedicated each portion of my run to others to give back some of the support and encouragement we had been given. When I hit 7 hours and 26 minutes this year, I was just over 38 miles and so I pushed on dedicating my final two miles to my son Emmett. 7 hours and 52 minutes later, I had covered 40 miles with an 11:48 min/mile pace. It wasn’t about the pace at all, but secretly, I was quite pleased. Next year though, I want those 40 miles in the 7 hour and 26 minute mark


1 Comment

The key to courage

I stood in the large open room in church surrounded by women that were once strangers but now friends. I had stopped in real quick just to drop off some food for a friend that couldn’t make it to the MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) meeting. My husband was in the parking lot, waiting for me.

I was exhausted, anxious, afraid, and filled with both dread and excitement. I could practically feel it rolling off of me in waves. What on earth was I doing? I didn’t know. It’s no secret that I live and breathe running. I’ve been a long distance runner for years and I had trained diligently for the last 6 months for this very day. But why? Why attempt to run 100 miles? Maybe I was searching for something. Maybe I was trying to find myself in those miles. Maybe I was trying to get back a feeling I had lost long ago. Maybe it was none of that. Maybe I was just running away. Maybe I couldn’t face it. Maybe I was so afraid of what I couldn’t control, I had to do something just to prove to myself I was still in control. Maybe I just wanted to feel like me again.IMAG0924_BURST012

Just 2 weeks prior to that day, we had scheduled another skull surgery for our 3 year old son Emmett. Heartsick didn’t even begin to cover it. I was torn between breathing a sigh of relief that we could get this over with now and help him and wanting to pack up everything we own and run away with my son to keep him from any more pain and suffering. I looked at my little boy who didn’t understand what was in store for him and it was a dagger to the heart. It filled me with the kind of fearful, anxious pain that makes you abruptly start crying in the middle of everyday mundane tasks without warning.

Here was that task, dropping off food to a group of friends, on my way to try my hand at running 100 miles for the first time ever. I almost wasn’t standing there. I almost decided it was too selfish of me to go ahead and run this race with another impending surgery. But after a lot of careful thought, I decided I had to. For Emmett. For myself. And for everyone that’s ever wanted to give up. I wanted to be the person that didn’t go down without a fight. But I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t know how I was going to run 100 miles. I didn’t know how I was going to hand over my heart and soul to a group of surgeons again. I didn’t know if I was ever going to stop being afraid for him or if I was ever going to be brave enough.

That’s when the MOPS leader, who is a dear friend of mine, began talking. She was reading a devotional about bravery and courage when she stopped to pull out a small, fancy envelope. She handed me the envelope and inside was a key with the word courage on it. I started to cry as I looked around at the faces of these loving, supportive women. They thought I was courageous even when I felt absolutely terrified.  They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They were rooting for me even in the middle of my own second thoughts. Tears of gratitude continued to stream down my face as they prayed for me before I had to leave.                                                 

I stashed that courage key in my running pack and it traveled with me for all 29 hours and 44 minutes as I completed 100 miles. There were some very dark moments during that race, just as there had been in our life, but I knew I wasn’t alone out there. 3 weeks after race day, I put that courage key in my pocket the morning of Emmett’s surgery, while I ran and walked obsessively outside of the hospital waiting for him to be out safe and sound, until I was holding his hand once again. As I curled up in the hospital bed next to my son amidst a mass of wires and tubes, I knew I had it. I could feel it. One of the greatest gifts I had ever been given was not just a key, but someone that believed in me, someone that believed I could do it, no matter what “it’ was. And whether it was on a running trail at 3 am or in the ICU of a children’s hospital, their belief in me sustained me until I could believe in myself too.