When she said she was going to do it, I’ll admit—I was nervous. I mean, I know she’s 25 and married and a big girl. But she’s still my baby sister. And the thought of her running in the middle of the night, by herself, through the mountains of Utah, had me a little nervous. All I had were visions of mountain lions and/or scary men hiding in bushes.
So when her Ragnar relay team said they needed someone to drive the vehicle support van, I didn’t think twice. I jumped.
Not that there was anything I could do to keep a mountain lion from attacking, of course. But it was the best available option for this over-protective big sister. At least I could be there at her relay exchange points to cheer her on and make sure she arrived when and where she was supposed to.
Little did I know how I could somehow grow to love her even more as I watched her run up and down mountains.
As she began each of her three legs, I wished her luck and tried to remind her that she could do it. And then I prayed every minute she was gone (literally) that she would have the strength, mentally and physically to finish.
When she started her last leg–a seven mile stretch over steep hills and knee jarring declines–I could see she was spent. She had already run 13 miles over the course of twenty hours with little to no sleep, and there was no vehicle support allowed on the route to make sure she had enough water, stayed cool, or kept going. I had the hardest time driving away. I waved out the window until she was no longer a spec in my rear-view mirror.
Once out of sight, I drove quickly to her finish line and waited. But when it seemed like it was taking her longer than it should, I got a little worried. Was she alright? Was she injured? Had she given up?
But there was nothing I could do. So I just stood. Facing the mountain. My eyes fixed on the bend in the trail where she should eventually appear.
People milled around me. Her team mates tried to find shade and rested in the van. But I stayed, feet planted as the sun burned hot, praying to the God of the mountain in front of me that she would make it.
When she turned the corner and into my view, I breathed for the first time in an hour. Then I straightway went to the finish line and began to scream. She needed to hear me yelling. I needed her to hear me yelling. Yelling her name. Telling her she could do it. That she could finish.
I will never forget her face as she crossed the finish line. And I will never forget the weight of her limp, victorious body in my arms as I held her and told her again and again how amazing she was and how proud I was of her.
My baby sister? She is a champion.