By Sheryl Collmer, Race SLO Staff, Ultrarunning.com
Confucius say: “Man who moves mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
The mountain Sandra Villines moved was the female world record for the North American transcontinental run. That record had been immovably standing since 1978, when South African Mavis Hutchinson ran from Los Angeles to New York City in 69 days.
Other challenges have been made, but have either been incomplete or lacking some component required by Guinness World Record staff. Though it will be some months before Guinness definitively accepts Sandy’s record, an online community of running detectives at LetsRun.com has already been dissecting Sandy’s data.
There were murmurs before Sandra’s run that she wouldn’t make it, that she wasn’t a sufficient caliber of runner, but the post-run chatter seems respectful, implying that the online sleuths have not found anything out of order.
In fact, Sandy’s team of two was constantly aware of doing everything by the book. From redundant Garmin watches to the Inreach tracker, witness statements, photos and videos, crew chief / CPA Jay Lee made sure that the run was documented in copious detail.
What is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Sandy’s run is her utter ordinariness. As one LetsRun.com user observed (before Sandy proved him wrong), “You just can’t compare Sandra with a world class runner like Pete Kostelnick,” the men’s Transcon record holder.
Exactly. Sandy works a regular job as a district manager at Walgreen’s, has no hefty corporate sponsors that allow her to train full time and scored no big wins at prominent races until Badwater just this year. Like many runners, she began overweight, but once committed, set goals and methodically ticked the boxes: half marathon, marathon, ultra, ultra in the desert, ultra across the country… she’s not sure what comes next.
Day 38, Iowa. Cruising alone through the sunset after a pleasant day running with the Camachi Cross Country team. Photo: Jay Lee.
Imagine the face of her doctor when she went in for a physical after finishing the Transcon: “You’ve been doing WHAT for the last two months?” Amazingly, she is in fine shape, except an indefinable “skeletal ache,” a warning to not get back to running just yet. Her only other symptom is road nightmares, waking up feverish that she should be out on the road, clocking off more miles.
Sandra is humble, unaccustomed to talking about herself. Thus her world record-breaking Transcon risks slipping through the media cracks, for lack of anyone tooting the horn.
That would be a shame. If ever young people needed to believe in themselves, to set and achieve their goals, to forge ahead even when the tongues of the doubting nabobs wag… it’s now.
And that is precisely what Sandra had in mind. She believes that young people, especially, need to know that their dreams are not silly, that hard work produces results. Sandy speaks of patience as a necessary virtue, the acceptance of the small steps that add up to something huge. In the digital age of two second attention spans, she is modelling something rare, especially for kids: the acceptance of a long journey to reach a goal.
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