Race Report: Weymouth Woods 50K

It is always a pleasure racing in Southern Pines, North Carolina. There is something about the way the pine trees line the roads and trails that remind me of the green Ardennes and the soft feeling of fallen pine needles of the Bois Jacques under my feet. I am always eager to race there.

The ultra-running community in the Sandhills region of the Carolinas is unexpectedly rooted in the terrain there. Trail networks are not too common, but some of the best regional and even national competitors set their sights on racing the scene, and the Weymouth Woods 50K is a staple.

The course is not easy, physically and mentally. It consists of six 5.18 mile loops through the sandy, hilly, winding trails of the Weymouth Woods – Sandhills Nature Preserve. The weather is usually hot, this year peaking out at 95 degrees and 90% humidity. And the repeated course would train anyone alone.

I was joined this year by my best friend Heather, who was crewing me for the first time. She had never been to an ultra-marathon before, but did a great job orchestrating water drops, nutritional needs and even snapping photos. Also ran into my friend Cherie who first introduced me to ultra-running when I met her on pacing duties at the Umstead 100 Endurance Run.

The race started promptly at 0800, and unexpectedly I took the lead, guiding both the men and women down trail and onto a tight section of singletrack to the left. It started off in my element: rooted rising trails cutting through pine forest.

The first three laps felt effortless. I hovered right below 9:00/mile pace and even lapped a few runners. As opposed to other races I have competed in, I opted for the “light and fast” method this go around, starting off with a hydration vest and dropping it shortly thereafter for a simple handheld soft flask filled with Skratch. It was paying off.

There was only one aid station for the course, situated at the beginning of each loop where you would call out your first and last name for the record. I passed it by each time, opting for my typical Huma Gel and Skratch Labs chews over cups of Gatorade, M&Ms and PB&J sandwiches.

By lap four, things however began to catch up to me. I had been running constantly along the hilly course for the entire event. My legs were getting burned out and the heat was making me a bit dizzy. I felt terrible.

Heather did her best to keep me hydrated and moving when I began to lollygag at the aid station. She prodded me along each time I passed through, like any good friend and crew member would.

Things began to go downhill. My pace dropped. Laps four and five dragged on. But I was still leading. I had to power hike the hills, bogged down by the sandy surface under foot. But I was one lap away from a win. 

Lap six arrived quicker than expected. I stopped at the aid station and downed a few cups of Coke, something I only ever do while racing ultra-marathons. I dumped a cup of water over my head, snagged a chocolate chip cookie and was on my way.

At this point not only did I know I had quite a substantial lead, but I also knew I was on course record pace. All I had to do was hang on. And hang on I did. In the last few miles, I saw the second place woman on a lollipop portion of the course, she gave me a high five and congratulated me. I was moving well again. The last mile flew by, and as I approached the finish line, a smile plastered across my face, Heather running alongside me taking pictures, I could not help but laugh.

A course record. A race win under tough circumstances and conditions. Told I was dominant. I was handed my finisher’s medal and first place plaque, made from wood from one of the famous pines of the region.

All I can say is I am back from my injuries and ready to race again.

GEAR USED DURING THE WEYMOUTH WOODS 50K: Altra Running Superior 2.0s, Salomon S-Lab Ultra Vest 5L and handheld, Skratch Labs Fruit Drops (raspberry), Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration (Lemon Lime), Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration, Stoked Roasters Bluebird blend (post-race caffeine fix).

NEXT EVENT: Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, Chattanooga, Tennessee – December 17

 

The D-Day 100 Mile Honor Run

I remember distinctly sitting on my bed, in a silent stare-down with my folded American flag across my room, perched on a shelf at eye level. I was trying to make a decision that would change my life.

It was a few weeks after the terrorist attack at Brussels Airport that claimed the lives of 32 innocent travelers and injured over 300. Only a few months following a similar event in Paris. Friends, family and fans from all over the world seemed to be collectively clamoring for me not to return to Normandy this June. They knew of my plans to run 100 miles solo along the coastline, carrying my American flag – and were worried with good reason. I knew I would make a perfect target.

Fear is contagious, and I did not want to be afraid. I did not wish to project an image of fear. That is not me. But I felt so alone. I was told, “You’re so young. You have time. Wait,” or “You’ve done so much. You have nothing left to prove.”

But this time, I knew that I did have something to prove. That I, and the World, will not be struck with terror. I wanted to defy those trying to instill fear. I wanted to go and carry my big beautiful American flag over the land that means so much to me, a land where it is quite obvious the price of freedom is not free. I was actually prepared to lay down my life for my belief, for my flag.

I booked my flight.

Time slipped quickly by and June 6 was creeping up on my calendar. Two weeks out, I ran the most peaceful 24 miles of my life, hitting all my pace goals in the summer heat. I remember those miles, cutting through the vibrant green woods of my home trails, stopping to take in the scene as if I were seeing it for the first time, breathing in the sultry air.

I said a silent word of thanks, for my the gift of running and what it has brought me in life. I promised myself I would stay strong and fight for the thrill of every mile on those beaches as if it were my last. I would not take one step for granted.

And just a few short weeks later, there I was, standing on the famous Pegasus Bridge. Just me and my flag. It was overcast and grey. Sickly quiet. All I remember thinking was: 100 miles is a helluva long way to go…can I do it? I swallowed my fears, waved to my crew from across the bridge and started running. It was 0747. June 5, 2016. (PC right: Peter Deprez)

 

The first 26 miles slipped by in no time on the least technical quarter of this event. I knew I had to inevitably slow my pace, as I clocked through the marathon in 4:36. My crew met me often and resupplied me with food, water and morale. The goal was to keep my calorie intake high and to keep me smiling.

I traversed Sword and Juno beachheads in those first miles, and arrived at the start of Gold and the artificial harbor at Arromanches after getting lost for a brief while.

For a moment, I thought this would be easier than expected. The trail was flat and the breeze was light, with a soft surface underfoot. But as I linked up with my crew in the harbor, my gaze met the first set of cliffs that make Normandy’s coast so dauntingly beautiful. Sheer and rising straight up to overlook the English Channel.

 

I remember scaling the first of these, realizing that this is where my real work would begin. The trail I entered was marked with warning signs advising against passage due to severe cliff erosion and high winds. In some areas, one false step would lead to a plummeting fall. The weather was warm and overcast as I reached the 55km mark, but when I found my way to the German Battery at Longues sur Mer, it took a turn for the worst.

Normandy, known for its ever-changing weather conditions, had blessed me with the perfect start to my 100 mile journey. But the middle miles were anything but. Thick, bone-chilling fog rolled in as I met my crew. I was cold, damp and tired. Visibility was down to maybe 10 feet. I was in a low point, but with a little food and some encouragement, I was on my way again, albeit reluctantly. I remember looking at the fortifications on the coast, eerily outlined in the fog and thinking how this scene looked 72 years ago: the calm before the storm.

With the fog and relatively untraveled terrain, navigation was terrible. I was lost several times, having to pull out my map and look for directions. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew I would pick up my first and only pacer for the day, Laurent, a few kilometers down trail.

 

I pushed through and just outside Port en Bessin, I met Laurent and my crew. Having run this section last year during Run For Currahee with him, I knew the importance of having a guide and friend to keep me going. The trail running the length of Omaha Beach is one of the most challenging, technical and down-right scary trails I have ever been on, and that includes high Alpine experience in Berchtesgaden. This part of Normandy worried me.

But these were Laurent’s home trails. He knew them as well as I know mine. He comforted me, encouraged me, and I followed him back out on course with a new sense of confidence and safety. We cut through stinging patches of briars that cut through my skin like knives, golden wheat fields stirred by strong winds, and along the edge of cliffs simply to catch a glimpse of the stunning coastline. I was inspired. Soon, we descended and found ourselves running on the sand of Omaha.

We linked up with a local runner named Sandra who was undergoing chemotherapy for an aggressive form of cancer and simply wanted to run with us, and a group of school children who quickly were enticed by my crazy running attempt, as described by Laurent in French. (PC Left: Laurent Guerin)

 
What struck me then, running on Omaha Beach at low tide, was the fact that so many people believed in me. I had so many people standing behind me. That was the first time that I thought to myself, I am going to finish this thing. For them. I had to believe in myself. I had to be brave. I made my decision right then to do whatever I needed to do to get to Utah Beach on June 6. I was not going to quit. I was not going to let anyone, or myself, down.

Soon, Laurent and I found ourselves climbing again above Omaha Beach. Our next destination was Point-du-Hoc. As the sun was going down it illuminated the endless wheat fields that grew over the Channel and we skirted the coast. We arrived at Point-du-Hoc a little before sunset and weaved our way through the endless system of bunkers and craters, remnants of the war that tore this region apart not so long ago.

Laurent paced me all the way to the port town of Grandcamp-Maisy. He announced to every single person we passed on our way into the center of the village what I was doing. I was humbled, a little shy, but gracious to everyone who wanted to shake my hand or pose for a picture. Then, with a hug and handshake, Laurent’s job was done. (PC Right: Laurent Guerin)
The sun was going down and darkness started to cloud my vision, the temperature dropped and I quickly changed out of my damp clothes. Long pants and a heavier jacket went on, as well as a headlamp to help me find my way. Hypothermia in the damp conditions was my number one concern, so my goal was to keep moving and stay as dry and warm as possible.

Although the cliffs were gone and the trail was easier than before, the darkness added additional challenges to this final 30 mile portion of my journey. Darkness does terrible things to a tired mind. Although my headlamp illuminated the trail, I was afraid of every little thing that moved in the tall grass, every sound I heard in the dark. My pace quickened.

By the time I reached the town of Isigny-sur-Mer, I had run myself into the ground. My pace was too fast in the last portion, magnified by my apprehension. I felt myself losing control of my body and mind. I was shutting down 83 miles in.

Apparently, I kept asking for hot soup. I do not remember this. But my crew felt sorry for me when they did not have any. I was shivering and cold. Damp all the way through. I wanted to stop. Told them I did not think I could make it. They did not tell me at the time, but they did not think I would make it either.

It was 0030 and all I wanted was something warm to eat. My crew scoured the area for the only the only open restaurant at the time, which also happened to be the only McDonald’s in the region. I have never been so thankful for food in all my life when they met me with French Fries on the road.

I was able to run the next 10km to Carentan by 0230, urged by the familiarity of a place I have run and driven countless times. This was the beginning of the most special part of Normandy for me. Where the Airborne staked their claim on the marshy landscape and inspired my interest in their history. I was uplifted. But on the outskirts of the town, my feet began to burn. My head was foggy. A few times in the darkness I stumbled to the side of the road and had to take a breather. I felt like I was going to pass out, right there and then.

With the last 10km on the road, my crew made the decision to tail me in the darkness with hazard lights on to warn oncoming drivers that I was ahead of them. The wind was picking up and I found myself fighting with my flag as it caught in the wind. I tightened my grip on the pole and held on tight.

Road signs for Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and Sainte-Mere-Eglise disappeared into the night. Around 0430, I knew I had just over 5km to go. I tried to run, but could not. My feet were too bad. Around 0500, I was down to 2.5km to go. I hit a turning point.

Cresting over the last hill on my way to Utah Beach, the fog rolled in so thick I could not see my hand in front of my face. Yet, I knew where I was exactly. I waved my crew down in their car and told them to let me pass in front of them to the other side of the road. I knew that was where the Major Richard D. Winters Leadership Memorial was located, just a few kilometers from the beach.

The homestretch, kilometers from Utah Beach. PC: Jo Segers

Major Winters has been my hero since I was a kid. His leadership skills on D-Day and throughout the War inspired me to hold onto this passion for history, our veterans and to create Run For Currahee last year to help preserve the training grounds of his 101st Airborne at Camp Toccoa. One could say, he is the reason I have pursued the crazy life I have taken on.

Major Winters taught me to “Hang Tough,” and that was exactly what I needed to do in this moment. To hang on. To fight.

I touched the foundation of the monument, looked up at his likeness and down into the fog and darkness in the direction of Utah Beach. Then, I crossed back onto the road and tried my best to pick up my pace. I looked down at my watch. It was 0530. At that moment, I knew I would complete my 100 mile distance in far less than 24 hours.

The next thing I remember was my feet hitting sand. The sand of Utah Beach. I struggled through the dunes with my flag catching the wind behind me. I touched the sand and let it run through my fingers. I stopped my watch. 0548. June 6.

22 hours, 1 minute and 35 seconds. The time it took me to honor my heroes, say thanks to those who currently serve and make a little bit of history on the beaches and cliffs who have shaped who I am today. The fastest time in history running on this historic trail.

Thank you to all of you who have believed in me. To my Mom and dear friend Peter for crewing me. And a special thanks to the companies who have supported my training and racing: Altra Running, STOKED Roasters, Skratch Labs and SisuGirls. And to Team Red, White and Blue and the Carbon Fiber Tube Shop for graciously donating a custom made carbon fiber flag pole to carry my flag on my journey.

And a special thanks to WWII veteran of the 501st PIR, 101st Airborne Division Vincent Speranza for presenting me with his unit’s pin prior to this event. I carried it with me the entire 100 miles, and it served as a source of inspiration when the times got tough.

You all have made my dreams come true!

All American Marathon: Airborne! All the way!

I had been injured for 106 days. It all started with falling in the Lookout Mountain 50. Continued with nagging swelling and Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Forced me to DNF the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40. And made me doubt whether or not I would make it to the starting point for the D-Day 100 Mile Honor Run in June.

Then, three weeks ago after peaking my PT and employing a new Kinesio taping method, my pain disappeared into thin air. So, like any obsessive compulsive ultra-runner would do, I signed up for a marathon: the All-American Marathon in Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Aptly enough, the home of the Airborne.

On April 3, 2016, I stood on the start line of my comeback race with no expectations and a subtle bit of fear that the pain I had dealt with would come back to haunt me.

The race started with the loud bang of two Howitzers firing simultaneously. Here we go.

For the first five miles of the race, we weaved through historic downtown Fayetteville. Swinging by the beautiful Airborne and Special Operations Museum, I could not help but smile seeing the sun rise over the Iron Mike statue, standing ready over a heap of stone taken from Currahee Mountain. My pace was in the 8:40 range. This feels too easy. 

At mile six, the field departed the charming neighborhoods of downtown and swung onto the long and monotonous All American freeway that connects Fayetteville and Fort Bragg. It felt as though I had stepped into a wind tunnel. Gusts of 10-15 mph headwinds slowed my pace, and I felt myself fighting it with every stride. Less than ideal weather conditions, and the highway was a slow, uphill grind, too.

My spirits were down, and I was getting into my head, which is never a good sign for me. As soon as I was beginning to get down on myself, we hit the “Blue Mile.” This one mile tribute, lined with the photographs of soldiers killed in action and American flags, always brings a tear to my eye. Even when my shoe came untied, I had little to complain about and took that moment to reflect, instead.

Suddenly: Welcome to Fort Bragg. Home of the Airborne.

Mile 10 drifted by in an instant and all runners exited the freeway, with half marathons splitting off to the right, and full marathoners continuing left onto Gruber Road, an equally monotonous stretch. I was forced to pause for an instant when a runner collapsed in front of me, but was able to continue shortly thereafter as a medic appeared on the scene.

The strong winds continued and I continued to fight it. I felt as though I was expending a lot more energy than necessary because of this, particularly on the hilly backside of Fort Bragg.

Mile 15 – 19 swung the field of runners around Pope Army Airfield, and then onto the hills around Longstreet, through the heart of the Army post. I was feeling the distance of this race, now. Do not stop. 

Then, a morale boost for me. A street sign that read: Ardennes Road. I miss that place; those hills and forests. Then Bastogne Drive. I could go for an Airborne beer right about now. Soon I was on Normandy Drive. I will finish this race and get back there. My pace quickened. A sudden, albeit false, familiarity arose inside me.

Mile 25 and Iron Mike appeared out of nowhere. Time to kick it home. 6:38: the last mile of my comeback race, gone in an instant.

I hit the finish line, celebrating as though I had won the race outright. 4:21 was not a PR for me. I have run much faster and much farther. But this race was about the comeback I never thought I would ever had. It was about overcoming my fears and my physical limitations. It was about celebrating the gift of running, and the fact that I am blessed with a body that can once again run 26.2 miles without suffering. This race was about punching a ticket to Normandy. 

Last time I cried was February 7, when extreme pain flooded my body and forced me to drop of my race. On April 3, I cried tears of joy, thankfulness for all those who believed in me, and in resolve.

A soldier in ASU’s draped the medal I earned around my neck: jump wings. How apt.

Thanks to the support of my sponsors throughout my injury and recovery, as well as those closest to me: I am so grateful.

In the All American, I wore the Altra Running Torin 2.0, sported a Team Red, White and Blue race kit (for the first time! #EagleUp!), fueled with Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix Matcha + Lemons and Raspberry Fruit Drops Energy Chews.

Normandy 2016

I have had quite a few people requesting my schedule for my return to Normandy this year, so I thought I would publish it now that we are less than three months out!

Join me the morning of June 6 at 6am for my arrival at Utah Beach after running 100 miles of Normandy coastline for the D-Day 100 Mile Honor Run. I will be departing Pegasus Bridge on June 5 at 6am.

Additionally, I have been invited to participate in the inauguration of the Armand Lapierre Memorial in Port-en-Bessin on June 4 (time to be determined). I would love to see you there, too.

Below is a detailed list of the events I will be attending. I appreciate all of the support I have received since Run For Currahee started last year, and hope I can meet all of my supporters during my time in Normandy this year. You have made such a difference in my life!

Afternoon of Sunday, May 30 – morning of Wednesday May 30 – I will be returning to Bastogne, Belgium for a visit to the 101st Airborne Museum Le Mess and the Bois Jacques.

Evening of Wednesday, June 1 – Arrival in Normandy.

Beuzeville au Plain, 18:30 – 19:30 – Ceremony dedicated to the men of from the C-47 of 4369th TCG and 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division. Church Square.

Thursday, June 2 

Picauville (Time TBD) – Ceremony at the USAAF monument, in honor of Airborne troops and crews. American and German airborne units will be in attendance.

Chef du Pont, 14:00 – 15:00 – Ceremony at Square Rex Combs for the 508th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise, 16:30 – 17:30 – Memorial service in the church in town square.

Friday, June 3

Carentan, 11:00 – 12:00 – Vehicle blessing with military Chaplain Father Lefrancois, tribute and memorial with piper bands.

Carentan, 14:30 – 15:00 – C-47 drop over the DZ between Saint-Come-du-Mont and Carentan in original 1944 uniform and round canopy parachutes.

Picauville, 19:00-20:00 – Friendship Dinner to thank all American and German military units in attendance, as well as ambassador representatives and military organizations.

Ste-Mere-Eglise, 20:30 – 21:30 – 82nd Airborne Division concert.

Saturday, June 4 

Angoville au Plain, 11:30 – 12:30 – Ceremony at the Medics Monument honoring Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, 2nd Battalion, 501st PIR, 101st Airborne Division.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise, 15:00 – 15:30 – C-47 drop over the A-6 airfield.

Utah Beach, 16:00 – 17:00 – Commemorative ceremony with American, German and French troops.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise, 23:00 – 24:00 – Firework display over the church square.

Sunday, June 5 

D-Day 100 Mile Honor Run Departure from Pegasus Bridge, 06:00 

Monday, June 6

D-Day 100 Mile Honor Run Arrival on Utah Beach, 06:00 

Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, 11:00 – 12:00 – Major Richard D. Winters monument ceremony.

Carentan, 18:00 – 19:00 – Ceremony for peace with children from Carentan and Ste-Mere-Eglise.

 

 

 

Earning My Wings

“Thank you.” Two simple words that have been uttered by close friends and family, complete strangers, soldiers and civilians, and the veterans whose legacies I run to help preserve. Sometimes, to be honest, I have a hard time accepting those words of appreciation; all I want to do is pass them along to those who stormed the beaches on June 6, 1944 and fought in the bitter cold of the Bois Jacques that winter.

I am just simply a runner who just wants to say “thanks” in the way I know best.

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A 93-year-old Normandy veteran wrote me a letter a few months back to tell me how much he appreciated “the gift that is Run For Currahee.” In reality, all I wanted to do was tell him how much I appreciated him. He was the one with the combat decorations on his uniform. I run to earn his respect.

Standing on the Carentan DZ on June 5, Veterans Affairs Officer Peter Plank presented me with a challenge coin honoring a “courage and commitment to the Armed Forces.” With tears in my eyes, realizing the scale of the endeavor I was preparing to embark on, I accepted it. I run to earn that honor and the coin I carried with me in my pack all 850 miles.

Halfway, through my journey upon arriving in Bastogne, I was
presented with a plaque at the Barracks and former regimental headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge, something returning veterans are often welcomed with. I run to earn my keep among their ranks.

In October, upon returning to the United States and speaking at the Currahee Military Weekend banquet in front of hundreds, including Camp Toccoa veterans, I received a standing ovation. I run to earn the respect those veterans, my heroes, have graciously given me.

However, over the past few months, I have been struggling to run at all. I have not been the same since I fell during the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler. And although mostly bad came out of my accident, so did a little bit of good: the outpouring of support, good luck messages from all over the World, prayers and hugs have reminded how many wonderful people I have in my simple little life. I am thankful every day for you. I run for all of you. 

I continue to work toward recovery and healing as training begins for my next endeavor. I can guarantee I will be returning to Normandy in June to once again run the coastline in a 100 mile effort dubbed the D-Day 100 Mile Honor Run. And I will come back stronger than ever.

Upon starting Run For Currahee, I was given a pair of Jump Wings, and I want to make sure I earn them. 

— Kathryn Lindquist —

“Hang Tough”: The Lookout Mountain 50

Lookout Mountain was tucked in the deep darkness of a Tennessee winter on the morning of December 19. Frost prickled and clung to every branch on the surrounding hillsides, casting a ghostly hue over the landscape. My breath escaped my body in shallow gasps, hitting the 19 degree air in wispy clouds. I was shivering badly in the unexpected cold, and drifted closer to a nearby blazing fire-pit, just yards from the start line for the Rock/Creek Lookout Mountain 50.

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I wrote the encouraging words of Major Richard D. Winters of the famous “Band of Brothers,” 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on my left hand: “Hang Tough!” It became my mantra for the event.

 

As time ticked confidently forward, fear began to overtake my mind. This would be the longest, most technically difficult and mentally trying event of my running career. A true mountain race with tremendous climbs, long stretches without aid access, multiple water-crossings and a long rope climb into the clouds.

The cold was overwhelming, and I had forgotten my gloves. Luckily, my crew member, Amber, had a pair and selflessly handed them to me in an attempt to keep me warm. As I stood there shivering in the bitter air, all I could think about were our soldiers exactly 71 years to the day in the snow covered Ardennes Forest of Belgium, surrounded by the enemy in an offensive soon to be called the Battle of the Bulge. Never would I be that cold and scared.

The gun went off and I took off. The first section of the race followed a long technical downhill along the side of Lookout Mountain.

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In the first mile, spacing out before hitting the singletrack.

I found myself on, or close to, the lead through the first aid station around the 6 mile mark. I felt great, strong, and even confident. Then, in a split second, all those positive feelings were smashed.

At mile 8.30 the unexpected happened in a split second. My foot found an ice covered rock under a technical downhill, hidden under a bed of leaves. I was going too fast to stop, on too steep a grade. Before I knew what was happening, I hit the ground hard and slipped down the descent.

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The aftermath of running 42 miles after a race-day accident.

I laid in a shaken heap in the leaves for a moment before stumbling to my feet. I was shaking from the shock and the cold. My left knee, ribs and shoulder instantly hurt. My right knee and elbow ached a bit too. I looked down at my knees and to my horror, I saw my left was immediately swollen to the size of a baseball. Blood was pouring from an open gash.

It was 5 miles to the next aid station. So I started walking. At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that my race was finished. I was losing too much blood, has a severe contusion on my right knee, and I could not breathe properly. But I refused to look at my cuts and bruises. I did not want it to get into my head. I did not want to quit, but believed it was inevitable.

At the aid station, a medic applied WoundSeal to my knee and gave me some Ibuprofen. She also asked me to please consider dropping from the race. But I again though of our World War II paratroopers in Bastogne and decided to at least try to get back to my crew at the next aid station at mile 22.5.

What I did realize, but refused to accept, was the fact that the next section of the race was by far the hardest of the day: a grinding climb, gaining over 2,500 feet in just under 5km. My knee was searing. My mind swimming. But, using my Black Diamond trekking poles, which I nearly decided to forego at the starting line, I pushed my way up the mountain, trying my best to relieve the stress on my left knee in particular.

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Relying on ropes to literally pull myself up the mountainside.

Whether it was the altitude, or the high I get from reaching the summit of a mountain, but at mile 22.5, when I crossed by through to the aid station and saw my crew: I decided to keep going. The next 27.5 miles passed by in a blindingly painful blur.

Mile 35-37, on a loop running on my own, I began to cry. The pain killers began to wear off as I drifted into a mental state that had me wincing in pain at every step and eager to quit. But it passed after a few water-crossings.

My competitive race for the podium was over, but now the true experience of ultra-running began. I ran with people from all over America: a lawyer from Georgia, a retired Fort Bragg paratrooper, a veteran Virginian ultra-runner who had done every race you could think of. We swapped stories and shared miles, suffering alone but also together: Currahee in the essence.

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The hardest portion of the race for me, physically and mentally.

Around mile 41, I took a break to hike and get some food down. I checked my phone to see messages from co-workers, friends, family… People cheering me on from all over the World. My mother, Emily, Sam, Brendan, Suzie, Kia, Natalie… Countless people who mean so much to me and kept me going in my darkest points.

“Keep going! Did some math and you should be about half way. Cheering for you!”

“Stay strong! You can do it!”

“You’re a badass.”

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Lula Falls, most stunning thing I have seen during a race.

As the miles slipped away, so did the sun. I was treated to a beautiful sunset as the finish line neared. My headlamp flickered on and I was able to more easily navigate the darkness. There was one final climb before the end, and I was able to power through it, beckoned by the far off sound of the announcer and the lights of the finish line.

I was able to run. And as I found myself heading into the finisher’s chute, lined with Christmas lights, I heard the announcer say: “Number 132! Kathryn Lindquist of Cary, North Carolina. Kathryn ran 850 miles from Normandy, France to the Eagle’s Nest in Germany to raise support for our World War II veterans… Let’s give her a round of applause.”

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Immediately upon crossing the finish: heading for a warm up of Ramen noodles. Exhausted and hungry.

10 hours 53 minutes 22 seconds. My goal was to finish sub-9:00. But sometimes you just have to say, “Nuts!” on a Bastogne-esque winter day, and readjust your expectations. I finished 13th overall in my first regional championship, still managing to win divisional honors by 5 minutes.

So, my racing season for 2015 is over. It has been quite a year, and quite a season. Since returning from Europe in August, I raced three times: winning the Currahee Challenge mountain race in October, finishing fourth overall in my return to ultra-running in the Old Glory 50K in November, and then surviving the challenge that was the Lookout Mountain 50.

2016 will be far more physically challenging, but nothing will top 2015. Look for my recap for the year coming up later this week as January arrives.

Thanks for all the support. Currahee and hang tough!

Next Event: Uwharrie Mountain Race 40. February 6, 2016. Uwharrie National Forest, North Carolina.

I was fueled by Skratch Labs’ Apple & Cinnamon and Matcha Green Tea + Lemons for this event. And weathered the event in Salomon Running’s race kit, including the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 SG.

A Big “Run For Currahee” Announcement: My Next Adventure Awaits

The mountains were shrouded in a blanket of mist. The windshield framed nothing but an expanse of road winding in and out of the soft peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. The day was nothing but grey, the mountains caught in the odd space between summer and autumn before springing into color, the road was sheered with rain and the sky was a mass of cotton-ball clouds.

I was driving back home after a victory in the Currahee Challenge mountain race. My decision was to take the long was and enjoy the scenery. On the side of the road was a small storefront selling fresh Apples, so I pulled in to purchase a peck of apples and a few fritters. The lady behind the counter is cheerful and all smiles. It is little things like this interaction that remind me of Europe and the markets I would frequent during Run For Currahee.

As I begin driving again, my mind begins to wander. I watch the road and mountains continue to peel away before me. Where will my next adventure take me? Where will life take me? Where will running take me? Life is an adventure more than anything. But for some reason, I knew the answer to all three of the questions was the same: Normandy, France on a June summer day.

Normandy left an immeasurable impact on my life. It was the place where I began Run For Currahee, the adventure that has defined my life thus far. It is the place where I have made friends, I might as well call them family, that I will treasure forever. It is one of the few places on Earth that I truly feel at peace. And I knew my road through life, much like the road I was driving, would take me back there someday. And I knew it would be in June.

Soon the next question came to mind: What will my next adventure be? Yes, I have a 50km ultra marathon scheduled for November 14, and a 50 mile race on tap for December. But for some reason, those do not feel like adventures to me. They are about competition, camaraderie, meant to be an experience, but there is still something too safe about them. I wanted to be back on the edge I stood upon for two months this summer.

Then, I began to think. I remembered all the people I met, and soon I remembered Laurent Guérin, who I met on a day where 60 mph winds were blinding me with Omaha Beach sand, the hardest day of my journey. He volunteered to guide me the rest of the way and our friendship developed immediately as we bounded along those Normandy cliffs in pure trail running bliss.

He had told me of an event he helped put on in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in 2014: a 100 mile run 14 professional and military runners took along the Normandy coastline, visiting the cemeteries and memorials along all five D-Day beachheads. It was called the D-Day Ultra Trail and I ran the route over 4 days during Run For Currahee. Those days were some of the most challenging but also the most raw and beautiful days of my journey. I wanted to return there.

So, here is my proposition, my idea, my extension of the love I have for running and honoring our World War II veterans: I will run all 100 miles of the Normandy coast, from Pegasus Bridge to Utah Beach, in 24 hours, paying tribute to our WWII veterans at memorials along the way.

The plan is to begin on June 5 at 6am on Pegasus Bridge near Caen, France, visit all five D-Day beachheads (Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah), and run through the towns of Carentan, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and Sainte-Mere-Eglise, before finishing on Utah Beach in time for the official commemoration and memorial on Utah Beach at 6am on June 6.

I have never run 100 miles all at once. But I have run that coastline, and I know the memory of the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice on June 6, 1944 on those blood-stained beaches will push me forward to reach this goal. This is my thank you and my promise to them that we will never forget.

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This journey is in its infancy, but if you have any ideas, tips or would like to volunteer to help in Normandy, please comment below! Thanks as always for the support.

Run For Currahee: The Conclusion (and Currahee Challenge Race Report)

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”

11857591_410557302480968_695097955_nIt seems just yesterday I was standing on the summit of Kehlstein Mountain, looking over the wide expanse of Earth out toward the horizon, all the ground I had covered in a journey that once seemed impossible. That day, the sky was an azure blue and the only barrier that stood between me and the Heavens were several tall pillars of clouds that reached out toward the sun. I had never felt so alive as I did that day.

But that evening, when friends parted ways and our fellowship broke upon the hot summer wind, I have also never felt so alone. For two months, as I ran 850 miles across 4 countries during Run For Currahee, I always had a finish line set before me in the distance. I had a goal and a purpose. Now, all that was gone in an instant.

11846247_411379325732099_392594897_nIn the following days, I found myself out on the Alpine trails of Berchtesgaden as the sun was just rising. The mountains towered ominously above me nearly in an effort to remind me that I am just a small piece in the fabric of the World.

It is difficult to describe to people the emotions involved with something as large a scale as what I experienced from June 6 until August 8. Following its closure, I was simply not prepared to return to the ease of everyday life. But harsh as the World is, I was on a plane bound for home just a week later.

Not having to get up every morning to run 20 miles would be a blessing for most, but once I returned home I struggled emotionally with the fact that the purpose I found in Run For Currahee was gone. Then, once I did begin to run again, I discovered that my body was so exhausted that I could not, no matter how hard I tried. Not even my favorite trails could get me back into my rhythm.

Those around me saw how I was suffering to readjust to the simplicity of everyday life. They told me I needed to find a new purpose, set a new goal, find a finish line ahead in the distance. So, I did. And that finish line would be a race.

And it would not be just any race. It would be the Currahee Challenge mountain race on the historic grounds of Camp Toccoa, Ga., the very place in which the purpose of Run For Currahee was founded.

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

10474724_341178176085548_5796591978459269534_nThe Currahee Challenge has been the bane of my racing career since I first began running competitively a few years ago. It is a 6 mile mountain race following in the footsteps of the soldiers that trained at Camp Toccoa in World War II, up and down Currahee Mountain in the Appalachians of Northeast Georgia. It is considered by many to be one of the toughest races in the Eastern United States.

I can vouch for its difficulty. It is not the distance of the race which is troubling, as I have run much father without batting an eye. Nor is it the conditions, as the race is generally held in perfect Autumn weather with the mountain cast in a golden hue. It is the course than proves most difficult: a steadily climbing first two miles, then a final mile to the summit where you feel as though you are fighting gravity itself, pushing into the clouds. The closer you get to the top of the mountain, the more challenging it becomes.

I had raced it twice before. I finished runner-up female in the 2013 edition of the race. But the physical and emotional toll it left on me took me out of commission for nearly a month. In the 2014 event, I succumbed to my fears and faded badly by half-way, clocking in at a clip much slower than my initial attempt and missing the podium by daylight.

This year, I vowed, was going to be different. As my training progressed out of Run For Currahee, I found that I was stronger than ever, lighter and leaner, too. I followed a different training method than before, spending four days on the trails to build agility and finesse, a day on the track or roads to focus on speed, and one more workout on a treadmill cranked up to a 12 percent grade to mimic the third mile climb to the turnaround point on top of the mountain.

I calculated that if I were to win the race any year, after all I had been through with Run For Currahee, this would be the year to do it.

And although that focus and dream was a driving force behind my training, it was also a source of unneeded stress. I began to doubt myself and my capabilities. Soon, winning the Currahee Challenge began more important than racing it for the love of the mountain, its history and to simply enjoy myself.

Just two days before the race, I ran with a friend on my home trails. It was raining slightly, casting a grey tone over the trail. The run became more of a dance between the Earth and I. My foot falls became so much more apparent to me. I found myself smiling.

11944967_420831928120172_2060493811_nI revealed to my running partner just how nervous I was for my race, how much pressure I had put on myself and how badly I wanted to win. I was quickly told that I need to just do my best and no more could be asked of me.

Suddenly, it made sense, running Currahee was always my dream. Winning Currahee was an afterthought. I made a decision right there to run my own race for the unbridled love I have for it, and to seek the same joy I found on the trails for a split second that day. Not for a medal, or a record, or a win. Just to run.

12071654_433773820159316_1150375660_nOn the evening of October 2, I found myself staring up at an American flag illuminated in the depth of night. Icy rain stung against my face, but I cared not, as I was standing in the place in all the World that mattered most to me: Currahee Mountain. I touched the soil under my feet and ran my fingers through the quagmire of mud. I took a handful and threw it to the ground.

“It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.” 

It is 8:20am and I am standing in an open field at the mercy of the winds and rain being thrown from the sky upon me. Hurricane Joaquin swirls off the coastal United States, whipping in up to 10″ of rain upon the Appalachians, causing historic flooding. My shoes are already soaked through and I wiggled my toes, feeling the water slosh between them. Beads of rain drip slowly from the brim of my visor. My teeth are clenched in an attempt to stop my uncontrollable shaking.

12092480_433859360150762_785350907_nI am standing mid-pack, unsure of my worth in a crowd of runners far more experienced than I. Someone begins to speak on a loud-speaker. Then a woman begins to sing the National Anthem. Her voice cracks in the cold but, as if drawn to her, I find myself slipping closer to the front of the pack. Soon, I am toeing the starting line.

Silence fills the air and then a gunshot penetrates it.

For some reason, and it was not out of logic or choice, I find myself all alone on the lead. I have never led a race before in my entire life. But here I am. I race out of the field and down a road, before hitting the trail with a sharp right hand turn at the base of Currahee Mountain. Almost immediately, I begin going up.

The ground is nothing but sticky slop. It swells around my ankles with each stride. My muscles clench and release with each footfall in an attempt to maintain my balance.

For a mile, I am all alone. I check my watch and see it flash: 7’06”. I am going too damn fast. No one can go that fast up this mountain. The ground beneath my feet smooths slightly and it becomes easier to power up the incline that sweeps below me. I know my legs are strong on hills. I keep going.

I flash by the first aid station 1.5 miles in and am still all alone. Then, I begin to hear footfalls behind me and to my left and right. My heart drops and then spikes as a few men dash by me. No women. I am racing the girls, not the boys. Race smart. Mile two catches me by surprise: 7’20”. My pace has dropped by a few seconds. It is okay. Keep going. The mountain begins to curve upward toward the sky.

The wind howls the closer I get to the summit. By mile 2.5, I am blinded by the whipping rain. I am constantly wiping droplets from my eyes and the brim of my hat. Only a half mile until the summit. You can do this. Half a mile until you turn around. The ground heaves in swells under my feet. A switchback pushes me around the mountain. I can no longer run, I need to power-hike. There is no shame in power-hiking. Anna Frost power-hikes. Kilian Jornet power-hikes. Do not stop moving. Forward progress. 

I reach the summit, completely exhausted by the rain, the wind and the mountain itself. But I keep going. My calves burn, my lungs are searing, I have a stitch in my side. I forget to look down at my watch for the third mile, but I know it is slow. Despite how badly I want to slow down, I know I must keep going. The race is not over yet. You’ve got to make it down first.

Gravity helps race down the the mountainside. I feel as though I am flying through the storm, engulfed by the rain and wind. The majority of runners are still coming up to the summit and many recognize me from my travels.

Cheers of: “Go Kathryn!” “First woman!” and “You go girl!” follow my path down Currahee. The second place woman is still making her way up to the turnaround point, far behind, but I know many things can happen in a race like this.

Once again, I am all alone. The fourth mile slips by in 6’23” and I feel as though I am in control but simply falling down the mountainside. The fifth mile is a nothing but an afterthought gone in just 6’01”. Do not fall. 

There are a few big hills on the way down the mountain, too. I run some, but on the last hill I need to power-hike again. My legs are giving out. My vision is blurred. I am completely exhausted and bitterly cold. Forward progress. From there I see the final long descent to the finish line. I look over my shoulder and see no one behind me.

Soon I find myself running for the pure joy and freedom it gives me. How bad do you want this? I slosh through the mud with a smile plastered across myself, like a child at play. I turn a sharp left handed corner and dash through the historic grounds of Camp Toccoa. The route is lined with cheering fans, people yelling my name, reaching out their fingers to give me a high five as I splash past them. So, this is what the Olympics feel like? This is my moment. I earned this.

The rain is pouring down, I am running through mud up to my ankles, but I have not a care in the World. I feel so alive, so free, I feel as though I am back on Kehlstein Mountain on August 8. Soon, I am face to face with the finish line.

I cannot control my tears. I pump my fist in the air. Raise my hands in the Air, thanking the Heavens as rain meets my face. Sobbing uncontrollably, I cover my eyes with my hands in disbelief as I crash past the finish line. I collapse and kiss the Earth, kiss the grounds of Camp Toccoa.

12086892_433858756817489_1172574700_nChampion. First place female. Eight place overall. My dream fulfilled. My journey finally over.

So, here I was, drenched to the bone, shaking in the cold but refusing a towel, with a simple gold medal around my neck, mud stains up to my knees, tears streaming down my face. The race director encourages me to tell the crowd my story, the story of Run For Currahee. I get a standing ovation. Is this real? Is this really happening?

“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

12080778_434155366787828_70414047_nSometimes when you are in a moment, you realize the importance of it. I am not sure how I won that race that day. But what I do know is that it was, for some reason, meant to happen. The racing Gods had just written it that way.

I will always remember the way it felt to come charging home first, with the odds and weather stacked against me, on the mountain that has made me who I am today.

I am simply honored to have left my mark amid the boot-prints of the Toccoa Men on the mountainside of Currahee. I hope it will remain there for many years to come; or at least until I can leave fresh marks there again next year.

Run For Currahee: The Finish

Saturday, August 8, 2015. 12:20pm Berlin Time. Mid-way up Kehlstein Mountain, Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Scheiße…” The first word that comes to mind is an expletive but because there is no one in sight, I calculate that it is alright to mutter aloud. The harsh German word fit my predicament like a glove. The altitude laden air around me is laced with heat, nearly 90 degrees of it. My feet are following a blindingly tight curve in the trail and I can do nothing but watch as my only water flask manages to bump out of my pocket and skip down the mountainside. I grip a folded American flag in my right hand and it stays close to me. It is not going anywhere, or I am going down the mountain with it.

My legs are searing after 3km and over 2,300 feet of running on uneven, tragically tricky surfaces. The land around me seems to swim in silence. There are no birds singing, no crickets playing their song, no other feet pounding the trail. It is just my thoughts and I, alone in an Alpine paradise. And all I can think about is one word: up, up, up…

The view from Kehlstein Mountain, stretching into Austria. Photo courtesy of Eddy Bertels.

The view from Kehlstein Mountain, stretching into Austria. Photo courtesy of Eddy Bertels.

My legs are propelling me up, my heart-rate is up, and my eyes keep glancing there. I tell myself not to look in the direction of the famous mountaintop teahouse of Adolf Hitler, the Eagle’s Nest, seemingly perched perilously above me in a clear blue sky. With every step my only wish is for it to come closer, but it only seems to slip farther away, like a finish line that keeps retreating. I tell myself that it is closer than it seems.

To my left, the trail swings into a more maintained surface and my morale is lifted. A wider trail and then a paved path means no more rocks and brambles to fight. What I did not realize is that the reason the trail was created that way is because of the extreme angle of the mountainside and the possibility of runoff damaging a natural route. A 28 percent incline taunts me up ahead.

My mind wanders to all the places my feet have taken me since I departed from Sainte-Mère-Église in Normandy, France just 2 months and 2 days ago. I try to think of all the people met. I want to think of the hugs, happy gatherings and shared toasts, but all I can focus on are my legs and how thirsty I am.

I check my watch; it is 12:41 and my pace is dropping like the beads of sweat I feel slipping relentlessly down my back. Despite what my mind desires, my body tells me that I must walk. My legs slow down, and my breathing becomes easier in the thin air. Looming still above me is the Eagle’s Nest and I wonder if anyone sees me suffering down here. I do not want them to see me suffer, but I am and I cannot help it.

My body feels raw as though every fiber and tendon is burning and exposed to a salty wind. Below my feet the trail is running straight as an arrow up the mountainside. I am hypnotized by the procession of my feet, a uniform step by step. A few seconds slip away and I look up suddenly to see a switchback ahead. For some reason, I begin again to run. Slowly at first, and then my pace quickens. I hit the sharp left-hand turn in the trail and come face to face with another hiker. Another American hiker. And he wants to know about my flag.

He asks me about it and then restates the question. I am unfocused and have to blink a few times before I can properly answer him. “My flag?” I ask, stupid with exhaustion. He nods. “My flag,” I whisper to myself. “This flag flew over Camp Toccoa in Georgia. In the United States,” I say.

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My initial meeting with Mr. Alec Ross. Photo courtesy of Alec Ross.

“And what are you doing all the way here with it?” He asks, recognizing my exhaustion.

“I ran here from Normandy, France,” I reply matter of factly. He looks at me in disbelief. “Well, not all at once.” That look does not fade.

His name is Alec Ross and he is an Army Ranger stationed in Stuttgart, traveling to Berchtesgaden with his friend Ashley, who moves down the trail toward us. I tell them that thousands of people have passed me by during my travels, and they are part of only a handful who stopped and asked me about my flag. We take a photo together. Just before they turn to leave and continue down the mountain, I ask Alec if he has any extra water: he offers me nearly all of his.

We part ways in the same manner I have said goodbye to many on this journey: with a hug, smile and handshake. Thankful for the moment, but it soon fades into the fabric of my journey. I doubt I will ever see the pair again as silence returns to the mountain and I continue my ascent.

Quite suddenly though, sound floods back to the landscape. The sound of shuffling feet, heavy breathing and shouts of, “Stop! Kathryn! We are coming with you!” I turn around in disbelief, only to see Alec charging up the mountain with Ashley close behind. “We are coming with you! This is a once in a lifetime thing and we are going to come with you.”

Out of breath and drenched in sweat, Alec and Ashley are prepared to climb the mountain once again by my side. Content in the pain, Alec’s only request is if he could help me carry the flag up toward the summit, if only for a few strides. I hand it off to him, and we both hold onto one corner of the folded flag.

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After returning up the mountainside to join me for the finish. Photo courtesy of Alec Ross.

This is one of the few moments in my life that I know something important is happening. Here I am, a 23 year old runner from North Carolina with a dream and vision, climbing one of the tallest mountains in the Berchtesgadener Alps, sharing the burden of a flag with a US Army Ranger who just happened to be on the same trail as me and at the same time. He did not know it, but Alec was the first person other than myself to hold that flag.

They tell me that there are only a few more switchbacks before we reach the top. I look up and the Eagle’s Nest seems closer but still out of reach. The incline slopes upward under our feet. My calves and quads strain. I feel as though I am pushing against gravity itself as I climb.

Alec tells me, “Three more turns and you’re there.” We struggle on. “Two more turns.” Our pace quickens. “You’re on your own. It’s all you.” They let me go and slip ahead of me to the top. I stop to take in the moment. There is nothing but blue sky and mountainside around me. The towns below look like tiny dots on a map. Then I see them: Berchtesgaden, Bischofsweisen, Teisendorf; all the little villages my route had taken me through.

My two month journey slips away before my eyes: Normandy, France on a June summer day. A cool D-Day morning on Utah Beach laying flowers for those who passed exactly 71 years ago. 60 mile per hour winds blinding me with sand on Omaha Beach. Enjoying Norman seafood with friends. Being chased by a farmer on the cliffs near Point-du-Hoc. Collecting sand on the beachheads. A lightning storm over the ocean. A sea of golden wheat. Fields of cows. The tree lined trails of the Ardennes Forest. Arriving in style in the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. Visiting the Barracks. Sleeping in a foxhole in the Bois Jacques overlooking Foy. Picking flowers in Luxembourg. Seeing the flat plains of eastern Germany from a hilltop castle. Walking the cobblestone streets of Heidelberg. Arriving in Munich for a beer at the Hofbräuhaus. Looking across the ruby red glass surface of Chiemsee at sunset. Seeing the Alps for the first time in the distance. Seeing my finish line.

And now, here I am. Just feet from the end.

My feet start to run again. The pain leaves my body. All the aches accumulated over the seemingly impossible journey seem to melt away. Tears begin to well in my eyes as I make the final turn and see my team up ahead. Both of my hands fumble with the flag as I run. I lift it above my head, unfurled in all its glory.

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The final climb to the finish. Photo courtesy of Phoebe Gallagher-Reedman.

The flag flickers and sways in the wind. There is a crowd at the trailhead with tears in their eyes, too. I look away from them for a split second down to my right. My glance drifts once again over all the distance I have covered. I smile, completely content in my adventure.

My mother catches me in a hug at the finish. I burst into tears. Looking over her shoulder in the embrace, I see my team members Phoebe and Ben looking on. I soon wrap them in a hug. Lastly, come Alec and Ashley, whom I just met but shared a moment with that will last a lifetime.

I look at my watch only to realize I had somehow managed to cover nearly 6km with over 3,437 feet of elevation gain in just 1:19:10, over 40 minutes ahead of my projected finishing time.

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The Eagle’s Nest and its surrounding 360 degree view of the Alps. Photo courtesy of Eddy Bertels.

From the trailhead, we walk through a tunnel into the center of Kehlstein Mountain before boarding a golden elevator that takes us 407 feet to the Eagle’s Nest. As a group we step out into the sunshine, high above the tree line. I feel as though I am close enough to touch the sky.

To make the ascent official, I need to reach the marker on the summit of the mountain. A beautiful wooden cross donned with Edelweiss was my final finish line. And there, standing around it, I find my friends Eddy, Christel, and Mart who drove from Belgium to see my run culminate.

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The official finishing point of my ascent up Kehlstein Mountain. Photo courtesy of Eddy Bertels.

When I embrace them in many hugs, I finally understand that my journey was over: 890 miles through 4 countries in just 2 months. The fact that I have just become the first person to cover the historic route of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II on foot and setting the time record of 59 days 23 hours and 19 minutes barely mattered to me. I look and see all the people’s faces around me. They are sipping champagne, laughing and smiling, much like the men who arrived at the Eagle’s Nest on May 5, 1945. 

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A final toast. Photo courtesy of Eddy Bertels.

Someone hands me an Airborne Beer, poured traditionally into a ceramic helmet as a vessel. I pass it in my hands, trying to thin of what I can possibly say to express my emotions. I raise it triumphantly with everyone looking on, and we toast together, “Currahee!”


Sunday, August 16, 2015. 6:00pm Eastern Time. Cary, North Carolina, USA.

I arrive home and drop by bags by the front door, my life for nearly three months crammed into just two suitcases: Normandy cider, German beer, flags from the countries I visited, a few books, coffee mugs and chocolate. Each is a memory. And I also have the tan lines: white feet from my shoes, upper legs from my shorts, and around my wrist and finger on my right hand from wearing a bracelet and ring every day. Each is a battle scar.

Still today, I have yet to completely absorb what occurred from June until August of 2015. I walk down the sidewalks of my hometown blending once again into obscurity. No more signing autographs, taking pictures or having people recognize me. But I do not blame the people passing me by. You cannot tell just by looking at me that I have returned home from a seemingly impossible journey.

What I volunteered for and subjected my body to was not easy. All in all, it appears as though I have lost about 20 pounds, a few toenails and completely destroyed the fat pads under my feet. Everything hurts and I am not comfortable unless I am wearing shoes.

But that makes my decision easy. “Scheiße…” I whisper to myself with a smile, “What is wrong with me?” I do not have an answer for myself. Instead, I find myself lacing up my running shoes and heading out the door and onto the road for my next adventure.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-JRR Tolkein


I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who supported me on my journey. Hopefully I have not missed anyone, though I apologize ahead of time if I do.

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The team who I owe so many thanks. I could not have done it without this group, without them cheering me on at the finish. I will remember all of you for the rest of my life and thank you every day. Photo courtesy of Eddy Bertels, who I also thank dearly.

Thank you to: My mom and all my friends for believing in me and my crazy idea; Emily and Sam for being the best training partners ever and helping me log the mileage in training, I wish you could have joined me every day; Phoebe and Ben for being the best crew members one could as for; Kate and Janie for helping get this project started; Carol and William for encouraging me from the beginning; John for your friendship and seeing me off as my journey began; Keith and Brenda for the well wishes from Toccoa; Mart for your kindness and friendship in following me from day one; Jack for all the laughs and memories; Jacque and Jacqueline for the hospitality in Carentan and a lifelong friendship; the members of the Carentan Manche Athle Centre Sud for guiding me on two days of my journey and making me an unofficial member of your team; Denis and your family for the friendship, hospitality and memories; Paul for organizing for me to meet some of my favorite Band of Brothers actors; Laurent with Eiola Normandy for trail running with me into Port en Bessin; the organizers of the Pegasus Bridge Half Marathon for welcoming me as an ‘elite’ runner; Jason for the running advice and well wishes; Marja and your wonderful husband for all the protein shakes and so much more; Eddy and Christel for the friendship, memories, Airborne beer and a friendship I am sure will last a lifetime; Reg for showing me that my passion for history is still deep; Peter for the friendship and good times; Jo for everything, but especially for making it to Bastogne in a wheelchair; Olivier for the emotional visit to the Bastogne Barracks; Hans for the glorious welcome at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne; Helen for so much that I cannot even put into words, I will cherish our friendship; Max for the guided tour of beautiful Heidelberg; Antti for the tour of Luxembourg City; Veroinka for sharing your 500 year old historic home with my team; Simone for the beautiful cookout and laughs with your family; and Alec and Ashley for the triumphant finish! 

Also thanks to everyone who followed my journey, my co-workers, friends and sponsors: Skratch Labs, Ultimate Direction, PocketFuel Naturals, Allison of Oiselle, Salomon Running, and Bob and Kathy of Fleet Feet Sports Raleigh & Morrisville. I would not have made it without you.

Kathryn Lindquist

Blog Post 1: The Joys and Challenges of Training

10624595_289738987896134_6560843031393743094_n04/30/15 – Tomorrow, May 1, is the launch date for Run For Currahee’s fundraising campaign! Make sure to donate to our cause! As a kick-off, here is a inside look on the challenges and joys of training for an 800 mile run.

“Running, they say, is a simple sport. It involves the basic movement of putting one foot in front of the other for a set distance or time. For me, training for Run For Currahee has boiled down to just that. There is really no way to properly train for an 800 mile run across three countries, no training guide or plan to follow. It has never been done before.

The challenges are plenty: the distance, logistics, weather, conditions, and in the end, elevation gain that literally has me climbing a mountain under only my own will-power. But these are the things that drive me forward, the things that get me out of bed at 6 o’clock in the morning to run 10 miles in the pouring rain. I relish a challenge.

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Though difficult, there are plenty of moments and people that balance out the pain, exhaustion and stress associated with running as much as I do for an event like this. I am lucky enough to have two wonderful friends and training partners, Emily and Sam, to support me through the good and the bad. I am blessed to have a support team including my Mom, my best friend Heather, and crew members Kate and Phoebe, at my side from start to finish. I am lucky enough to train in some of my favorite places in the world, Umstead State Park and the American Tobacco Trail. I am also lucky enough to visit some spectacular places to log mileage, like Pisgah National Forest and Currahee Mountain herself in Toccoa, Ga.

I feel as though, through this event, I am part of 10915189_10204132532699301_8193000607316637434_nsomething much bigger than myself and I am giving my whole heart to it. At times in my life, I have felt small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Run For Currahee is my opportunity to lend the drive and simple passion I have for putting one foot in front of the other to make an impact on the world. It is my chance to help preserve the legacies of my heroes, the men of the Band of Brothers of Camp Toccoa, support current veterans and inspire others to choose an active lifestyle.

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I personally want to thank you, as well as my sponsors Skratch Labs, Ultimate Direction, PocketFuel Naturals, for your support in this daunting challenge. You will give me the courage to stay strong through all 800 miles of my journey.”

Currahee! – Kathryn