Annually, law enforcement officers from around the globe battle it out every Spring in the world's most prestigious and unique law enforcement foot race called the Challenge Cup Relay, more commonly known as Baker to Vegas. Starting in Baker, California and ending in Las Vegas, Nevada, it’s a 120 mile relay with 270 teams competing for the coveted cup trophy.
This April, Sheriff’s Special Officer Brian Keltner ran the entire Baker to Vegas race solo (all 120 miles) to raise awareness for the Warrior Hearted Special Children’s Foundation. Below is a recounting of the experience, and the source of his inspiration in his own words.
In thinking about my motivations, I would have to back up about six years. I used to be an overweight couch potato. I had grown comfortable in my lack of activities and size. I spent most of my time frustrated in dealing with my then three year old son and his special needs.
Through encouraging his growth, I challenged myself to grow as well. It started so simply with the words, “Can I?” “Can I walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes, just three times a weeks?” I found that I could. Then I asked myself, “Can I walk for 30 minutes for four times a week?” I could. It became a theme: to challenge myself to grow.
Not being a runner and suffering shin splints all through Boot Camp, Officer Candidate School, and later at the police academy, I looked at running as being a painful challenge for me. It was always a punishment from goofing off in other sports. So when I grew to the point of running my first half marathon, my peers thought I was joking. They reacted the same way for my first marathon, and triathlon. And they thought I was particularly hilarious when I mentioned my first full Ironman distance triathlon.
Over the last couple of years, I have been approached by runners in different police departments with inquires of running in the Challenge Cup Relay. Dubbed Baker to Vegas, the Challenge Cup Relay is law enforcement race consisting of 20 legs (120 miles) through the harsh desert of Baker, CA to Las Vegas, NV. In a jocular tone, I replied, “I will run it when I can run the whole distance from Baker to Vegas.”
I continued to watch my son struggle with his challenges. He has the heart of a warrior and pushes through with great difficulty. The idea of an eight year old spending weeks with an occupational therapist to learn to button his shirt may seem like a simple task, but for him this was a daunting battle. I would tell him, “You can do it,” and I continued to ask, “Can I?” So the question came, “Can I ..?”
Can I run a warrior’s race through the desert, 120 miles, non-stop? I coupled this challenge with a way to help warrior hearted children like my son. I wanted to help special needs children who deserve that extra help but were not able to get it from insufficient insurance coverage or losing the fights with school districts for services.
I became committed to running a warrior’s race to help raise money for Warrior Hearted Special Children’s Foundation.
I had kept up my fitness levels since completing a long distance triathlon in July, 2012. I stayed with my two workouts a day Monday through Friday and a long run or bike ride on the weekends. In October, 2013, I made the commitment to run this desert trek and started to shift my training from triathlon to running. I quickly worked up to running 60 miles a week while I searched out expert coaching.
By the end of October, two significant things happened; I found the perfect long distance running coach and I also suffered overuse injuries. I could hardly walk without limping; I really did not think I would be able to continue the training necessary to pursue this event. I went to my trusted sports doctor who informed me that I was near the point of Compartment Syndrome. Should it actually be to that degree, I would require surgery. It was looking very bleak.
We talked and opted for a lesser treatment that required medieval instruments of pain that she used to scrap the deep tissues of my lower leg muscles to attempt to loosen them. The pain was horrific! I took it in stride and counted this as part of my training process. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this may have had just as much impact on my mental preparedness as all the running I did.
The medieval treatments seemed to work, and I slowly started to build up my miles again. About three weeks before the race, coach had me running 120 miles a week.
With my longest run ever being 31 miles, I was very surprised of how good I felt around mile 75. I would even go as far to say that I felt fresh. However, it was right around that point I started up a 16 mile hill just outside the City of Pahrump. Five miles into the hill, I developed blisters on my feet. I had the wrong shoes on for running up hills.
I had been awake for over 24 hours; it was freezing cold and the wind was blowing me sideways. I was about a mile from the top of the hill when I hit the lowest point of my run. The tops and bottoms of my feet were covered with blisters. I could tell they had ripped open.
It seemed like the longest mile ever. When I slowed down, I could feel myself falling asleep. I just sped up. I tried to keep my mind busy. I thought about my, “why?” “Why was I out here in the middle of the desert at three in the morning running up a highway with cold winds beating on me?” I thought about my son. I thought about other special needs children. I thought about the challenges they face on a daily basis. I knew my pain and discomfort would be temporary. I never contemplated quitting. Keeping my ‘why’ at the forefront of my thoughts got me to the top of that mountain.
While driving to work a week later, I thought about my run from Baker to Vegas. I just finished running through the rough desert, that warriors from law enforcement race, to raise awareness and money for special needs children. My ankles and knees were still swollen and my feet were still black, purple, and red, but I was healing. I could almost walk without limping. It came to me that I just finished running 120 miles. I chuckled.
Six years ago I would never have thought I could run 10 miles. When I could run 10, I never thought I could run 26.2 miles (a marathon). When I could run a marathon, I never thought I could run longer. I am an ultra marathoner; I can run over 31 hours straight or 120 miles through the desert.
The most rewarding part of the run was the feedback I have received from others. People have come to me and talked about being inspired to actually go to the gym, run that mile, or even to eat better. I have received many finishers’ medals from other events, but nothing can compare to my teenage son hugging me tightly and telling me how proud he is of me. That’s something that will never be seen by others, but I carry it with me every day
As long as I am blessed with my son … as long as he has challenges to overcome.... as long as I can help others through Warrior Hearted Special Children’s Foundation. . . . I will always have my question, “Can I . . . ?”
To learn more about Warrior Hearted Special Children’s Foundation or Team Warrior Hearted:
Team Warrior Hearted: www.stayclassy.org/warriorhearted
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