Stephanie Eldore is a teacher and a mother from Priest Lake, Idaho. Last December, Stephanie ran 100 miles in an ultra marathon as part of her The Longest Day Fundraiser, to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Stephanie chose to be a part of The Longest Day because both her grandmother and mother were both diagnosed with dementia. “My Mom and Grandma were both strong, intelligent, loving women with vivid personalities. Watching the light leave their eyes was horrendously heartbreaking. I pray they find a cure for this vicious disease,” she said.
“My experience running 100.7 miles through the desert in honor of my Mom was incredible. “The Longest Day” was a very fitting description of my event. I ran/trudged my way through the day, night, and part of another day thinking about my Mom, and about the reason why I was out there running. I pray we are able to find a light to cure the darkness of Alzheimer’s,” said Stephanie. The following is an excerpt from Stephanie’s blog where she retells the story of her 100 mile run:
It has taken me few weeks to process my latest 100 mile adventure. It was a lot more to me than just a challenging footrace. It was the culmination of many things: One defeat at two prior races over the past year, two the brutal acceptance of life circumstances that I can’t change and three, excruciating heartbreak over losing my Momma and my Grandma with the best intentions of making a difference by fundraising for a cause that has taken so much from me and my family…..Alzheimer’s.
There were so many conflicting thoughts and emotions running through my heart and mind when I arrived at the Glendale-Camelback Ranch in Arizona. The one thing I knew for certain was that I was going to do do everything within my power to finish this race. It was much more than just a race to me.
The sun was shining brilliantly when the race director counted down the last few seconds before the race began on December 28, 2019. The excitement in the air was palpable. As I headed out on the first loop I felt exhilarated and ready for anything that would come my way. Forty loops later I wasn’t as optimistic….but I was still smiling with each step.
When I was about 40 miles into my race, the chilly evening air started to take hold. I grabbed an extra layer and went on my way. Then as the sun completely vanished, a bitter cold overwhelmed me. By 10 p.m., I had three layers on, and was shivering far more than I should have been. I was expending so much energy trying to stay warm that I was not able to keep my eyes fully open, and my mental clarity was waning. I tried coffee and a GU, but to no avail. I finally decided to duck into a heated tent for a little rest. An hour and 20 minutes later I was on my way and was feeling much better, although still extremely cold.
It was about this time that I started to remember how hard 100 milers really are. At 2:30 a.m. I came staggering out of a porta-potty and saw what appeared to be my husband standing a few feet away. I was praying that my eyes were not deceiving me. When I realized that it really was Ken, I was so excited and surprised! I wasn’t planning on seeing Ken until I finished, so this was really a happy and unexpected gift. Ken paced me for the next three miles, and not only gave me a renewed sense of purpose in this endeavor, but also reminded me how lucky I am to have such a sweet, supportive husband.
At mile 66, Ken gave me a big hug, a pep talk, and set me on my way again. I shuffled through the next couple of hours feeling grateful for the little things….mac and cheese at the aid station, the fact that we were able to switch directions every 4 hours, encouraging comments from other participants, and blaring classic rock music playing at the remote aid station every lap. The little things make a big difference.
At 4:30 a.m. I had to take another warm-up break in the heated tent. It was feeling more like North Idaho in December instead of Arizona! When I headed out of the cozy tent for the last time I was very focused on the prospect of a glorious sunrise. It had been a long, cold night, and I needed a kick in the butt to keep me going.
The sun finally showed itself at 7:25 a.m., which helped my spirits immensely. As the morning wore on, I was able to shed a couple of my many layers and focus on the goal ahead. The sunshine worked at keeping my spirits up for awhile, but by mile 80ish I was thinking things like, “Why the heck am I out here doing this again? What am I trying to prove?!? This is not fun anymore.” By mile 85 the extreme exhaustion was starting to take a toll, and I was getting choked up thinking about my Mom, and all of the people who were supporting me in this adventure. I was reflecting on all of the people who had generously donated to my TLD fundraiser, many of which didn’t even know my Mom. They just donated out of the kindness of their hearts. These thoughts are what kept propelling me onward.
Ken and Abby, my daughter, magically appeared when I reached 97.5 miles (which caused me to get choked up again). Abby joined me from mile 99.6 to my finish at 100.7. Upon crossing the finish line I immediately received a beautiful 100 mile buckle and an etched glass. We took a couple of pictures and started walking to the car (because I was starting to shiver uncontrollably again.) Ken and I both had tears in our eyes. He knew how much this race meant to me. It was my third 100 miler, but it meant more than any race I’d ever done. As I crawled into the car I told Ken that I was done running 100 milers; they’re just too painful. He laughed and said, “I’ll give it two days before you change your mind.” By the next day I was plotting and planning my next long adventure. It’s amazing how quickly you forget the pain and suffering.
All in all it was an epic race. I accomplished what I set out to do, and managed to raise $3,663 for Alzheimer’s. I also had some much needed intense running therapy, and reaffirmed that I am stronger than I think I am.
2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
The Longest Day is a “day of action” for the Alzheimer’s Association during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month®. On The Longest Day, thousands of participants from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice – biking, hiking, playing bridge, swimming, knitting and more. While Stephanie completed her race in December, fundraising for The Longest Day is still going. You can also donate to Stephanie’s fundraiser.
To register for your own The Longest Day fundraiser or to learn more about it, visit alz.org/thelongestday The day with the most light is the day we fight.