You know when you just know? When the world is saying take the next step, and the stars align and it’s make or break time? Well I had that moment last year.
I had finished my Master’s degree and I had not had a holiday in over four years. I was desperate to connect with my roots and meet family I had never met before who live in the USA. I now had the time, but I didn't have the finances.
I ached to just get away, to spread my wings and free my caged mind after being locked to my books. I was rote learning and reiterating over-ingested, digested regurgitated information, pouring it out onto paper for examination, and after doing the school drop off, driving an 1.5 hours to university and working nights every day, it left me scratching the walls to find myself again. How was I ever going to get away, before starting full time work?
A few years back I had an inspired urge to connect with running organisations to cross promote my future Podiatry business. I found an app-based organisation called Running Heroes. I approached Running Heroes and offered to blog in return for some exposure to runners. Our relationship developed and they would send me shoes to trial, review and blog about. They sent me a pair of Geminis from Under Armour, and I absolutely loved the shoe!
Upon the arrival of their newest shoe, the ‘Bandit’ they alerted me to Under Armour's newest competition, Run Camp. This was a competition in the USA, just the place I yearned to go. I just knew I was going to win, I could feel it in my bones.
The competition was based on Instagram and required a photograph after your hardest run. I set out with my friend to capture all I know running to be. I kept my eye on the competition; there were some extraordinary entrants who I knew were better runners than me, had prettier Instagrams than me, but I just had that feeling that deep down, this was mine.
I waited and waited for the winner to be announced, the announcement date came and went. But I was certain, and I actually bet on myself for once in my life. I continued to have mixed thoughts; should I give up hope? Why not me? And those thoughts just kept coming. Another two weeks passed after the competition close, and I had given up hope. I went to see a psychic to get some answers about where my life was heading. She said “I see this big foot wear company, sending you overseas to work for them”. She was perplexed about what that might mean, but I knew exactly what that meant! Hope returned, and the following day I received a direct message from Under Armour telling me to check my email.
Odette was going to Death Valley! I had just won one of two spots to represent Australia to run in one of the harshest places on Earth. I would be meeting other successful candidates from around the world. I felt like all my Christmases and birthdays had come at once! So now I had to prepare, because I was a sprinter, yet this event was more like a marathon.
I had three weeks to change gears and work on my endurance running. I ran five kilometres daily to start and by the end of three weeks I had been able to get to running ten kilometres without stopping. Yet this race required me to run the equivalent of a marathon in one of the harshest environments on the planet! I did all I could do, now all that was left was prayer.
The day had arrived. I knew nothing of what to expect, everything about the event was kept secret. We had no idea of locations, where and how far we were running or where we were sleeping. After 25 hours of traveling, I woke up In Las Vegas to a 4am call time. We were loaded up into the van and driven across a landscape that turned from city lights to arid desert mountains reminiscent of mars.
I was super anxious but excited. We were blessed to have a team member that was a First Nations Native American Chief, he gave a prayer of thanks to the ancient owners of the land in his native tongue prior to our descent through the mountains. It was a magnificent and spiritual moment. The route was spectacular, I was so engrossed in the run and in the moment 20 kilometres of Earth had rushed under my feet, and I was still striding forward. I had previously never ran more than 14 kilometres; a combination of adrenaline and being in awe of the twists and turns through the ancient mountainous terrain made it seem easy.
Our cavalcade of red SUVs came to pick us up and surprise us once again. We visited the national park tourist spots that took our breath away, such as Artist’s Palette, where a rainbow of watercolor paints the mountain scape.
Time passed and we needed to find our camp site. We were driven out far away from the main roads and dropped off, left to fend for ourselves and set up camp. With no toilets and no showers, to me this was roughing it. I helped set up the tents with the other team members before the desert sun set and the cold took hold.
We sat down at our camp site and one by one we went to the confessional tent to record our ‘Why’: why we ran, why we started, why we continue, why we need it, love it, and why we believe in the run. This confessional brought us closer together as we shared our ‘why’; for some it was to escape addiction so bad that it was death or running, for others it was part of a regimented post-military life style that required dedication, determination and hard work.
I reveal my ‘why’ in next week's blog, Bad Water Part 2, where I share my story about why I run and how it has changed my life. Part 3 of this blog will return to Death Valley for day 2, one of the most life changing days in my existence.
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