On Failure


My friends and I have been talking a lot about failure this week, which is appropriate since I’ve recently had a string of failures. I’ll admit these failures are minor, mostly being denied a few fellowships, but for someone who isn’t used to failing, I took them personally. I know I know failure is a part of life, it makes us stronger, Abe Lincoln failed a whole bunch before he was president. I KNOW all that, but when I fail I don’t feel it. I feel it for a long time. In fact, I distinctly remember my first big failure – Jr High cheerleading tryouts. My mom reminded me of that weekend just yesterday, like I needed reminding. I’m not sure I’ve cried that hard since then. When I say I cried, I wailed. Like a 12-yr-old version of Day 26 Maggie. My mom tried to bribe me by taking me to Maurices, offered to buy me anything I wanted. I couldn’t stop crying long enough to pick out anything. I cried myself to sleep that night and woke up the next morning with red and puffy eyes.

I was too young for makeup so I rocked those pitiful swollen eyes to the Governor’s Mansion. I had won an essay contest earlier in the year, writing about the Chisolm Trail. It didn’t matter. I barely remember the tea with the DAR or reading my essay or compliments on how smart I was. But I remember that failure, and its feeling, as if it happened yesterday.

It was the same feeling I had when I failed officer candidate’s school the first time around. A failure I’m pretty sure I’ve been trying to make up for over the last ten years.* I feel not only when I get a rejection email, but when I fail to win first prize or score anything less than 98% on an assignment (I’m not a perfectionist after all).

This most recently failure was not getting selected for an editorial intern position – a volunteer position that included duties I performed as a college student. It didn’t matter that it was probably best, I have enough on my plate. It didn’t matter that I was probably overqualified. It only matter that I wasn’t selected for something. That rejection, however slight or unintentional, burned.

Which led me to wonder. Do other people feel as bad about failure as I do? As serendipity would have it, this week’s TED radio hour talked about failure – specifically how girls and boys look at failure. Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls who Code, talks about her experience with girls trying to write code. In one example a girl, after hours, tells her mentor that she couldn’t come up with anything as she sat in front of a blank screen. When the mentor hit the “undo” button, however, she found the girl had written quite a bit of code but deleted it all. She had chosen not to participate because she wasn’t perfect. Reshma goes on to argue that we raise our boys to be brave, make mistakes, and just try hard. While we raise our girls to be perfect.

I know the feeling. I laughed when my nephew told me years ago about how, despite having a pretty impressive football game and being awarded the game ball, my dad only mentioned how he missed “that one tackle in the second quarter.” I laughed because I knew that feeling all too well. My parents had pretty high standards and were always careful not to inflate our egos too much. They didn’t praise us too much.

But despite those high standards, or maybe because of them, they didn’t inoculate us against failure either. They let us fail – my brothers, my sisters, and me. They let us risk getting hurt – physically or emotionally. I’m sure it hurt my mom to see me cry that night – as it’s hurt her when I failed in much bigger ways later on. But that didn’t stop her from letting me try again the next year.

I was never taught that failure was permanent. I was taught that failure wasn’t reflective of identity, but rather skill set, and skill sets can be improved. Researcher Carol Dweck (yes in another TedTalk) explains this difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A person with a fixed mindset thinks failure is permanent. Failure means a person is a failure – now and forever. A person with a growth mindset thinks failure is indicative of where they’re at – at that moment. They think “I’ve failed, for now.”

Here’s the really bright lining with failure – it breeds resilience if we do it right. Failure can break a kid, crush her self-esteem. Or it can teach them how to sit with failure, learn from it, and beat it the next time around. That’s where my parents really made a difference. They let us fail with love. I may not of liked failing, but I knew – know – when and if I do my parents will be there to love, support, and comfort me. They won’t coddle me. They won’t tell me the referee was bogus. They won’t call and yell at the teacher who gave me a bad grade. They won’t talk trash on the guy or girl who beat me out for the position. They, along with so many of my loved ones, will provide an emotional safety net for me to rebuild my self-esteem, to bounce back, to move through whatever failure bruises my ego next.

I wish I had a magic trick for failure – to avoid it, to lessen its sting, or even to alchemize it into life’s greatest teacher. I don’t. I do know that I was lucky growing up learning to fail with love, to be taught that failure isn’t great, but it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not permanent. Still failure hurts. Luckily running, especially running across the country, has taught me to try and learn from pain. If I can’t learn from it, I can at least sit with it, walk with it, or even run with it.

*I failed because I was a poor runner, like I said failure sticks with me.






Things I Learned...Death Race 2015

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In honor of rumors of a Death Race revival....the things I learned the last go around. 

So many lessons from this weekend. First and foremost the guys at Peak Races are truly twisted when it comes to developing pain-inducing tasks. Time after time I'd hear what was coming up and just not believe it. Just laugh at how ridiculous it was. A buffet of misery. Hats off to you fine arbiters of agony. 

When faced with such impossible tasks, the most you can do is start going. It's even better if you can do it with a little humor. You can do so much more than what you think is possible. I hiked that first lap thinking that was it. 5 laps later I remember the famous mantra "no limits." Well there are limits, we all have limits, we just often shortchange them. 

Barefoot hiking is no joke. Appreciate your shoes folks. When we got our packs back from the leech swamp, putting my shoes on was a better reunion than Zeppelin or NKOTB (even with Marky Mark). 

A good team will get you through a lot. A half naked team tied together in the woods will get you through just about everything. You can't do the death race alone. Nor should you. And I couldn't have asked for a better group. Thanks for the miles Kevin Brodsky, Diana Weishar and Luke A Weishar.

First impressions aren't everything. 

Picking a 53# rock is much harder than you think. Rucking 75# of rock (estimated since they didn't let me weigh it) plus a wet pack is much harder. 250 burpees also suck. 

I can compete, not just participate. And I sorta like that. 

My strengths lie in "school." Memorizing stuff and doing somersaults. Go figure. #nerd

I can lose it. I've always considered myself to be (maybe arrogantly) extremely mentally strong. I used to tell my students that you should only cry in the privacy of your own home under the influence of wild turkey like a self-respecting Midwestern woman. I still believe that. But I couldn't uphold that principle through this. I cried. I broke. The frustrations and fear overcame me and I lost it. I had that moment that death racers and ultra endurance athletes talk about. I've had it before, but never quite pushed through it. This time I did. Through tough love and practical encouragement, I got through it. And I can't thank Norm and David enough for not only putting up with my hissy fit but helping me overcome it, laughing at me, and documenting the whole thing.

Fury, rage, and hatred, they push you through for a while. But peace, acceptance, and love carry you the distance. 

My mother and father taught me the things that enabled me to finish this thing. Not just the ability to stack wood (flush to the front, no extra spaces), but the mental perseverance to know when to attack, know when to defend or just simply push through. To endure. 

Bonds form quickly during times of struggle. Sure death race is a competition, but only in a nominal sense. Joe put it nicely on Saturday when he encouraged all of us to help one another. Another racer put it nicely when she says it doesn't matter who finishes or wins the death race, what people remember is who you were and how you acted. I have to admit I got to the point of Maggie the bitch. I wanted no encouragement or positive thoughts (enter rage), I was vocal about that, and I apologize for that. Especially since I had fellow competitors offer me assistance even though they knew it hurt their chances of winning. People like Chiemi Heil taught me that I still have things to work on. 

David Magida is an athlete, a leader, and an incredible friend. I could extrapolate on how he fed and nurtured us, kept my mind right, or laughed at my (our) misery, but I'll just say that I'm happy to know him. 

Silkies pass for underwear. 

Silkies and gortex (as amazing as they are) are not appropriate attire for burpees, sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and running in a cold and hateful rain storm, nor the sand, nor crawling. Wear some freaking pants Maggie. 

I know I said the desert is the geological Chris Brown, but the VT forest might be a strong competitor. Beautiful and abusive all at once. 

When you need some perspective or mustache advice, ask Patrick Mies II

San Diego and Samantha Wilson have made me a much better hiker. 

When things get really crazy, when you can't remember who you are or what you're doing, look for a familiar face, listen for a familiar voice, and let it ground you. 

Get an education. The job you get with only an 6th grade education sucks. It's really hard. 

I absolutely adore these events. The fill my heart and energize my soul. They make me feel like me. I don't know why, still searching for that answer, but I'm officially an addict. Can't wait to see what's next. 

Life throws you a lot of shit, good, bad, ugly. The best you can do is take it all with a strong mind, a loving heart, and a sense of humor. Doing all of this with a couple good people - that's what the death race, and life is really all about. 

And seriously, appreciate your shoes.





Choice and Chance


This week marked the 2nd anniversary of the Southern Caiifornia Valor Run 161 miler – in which I along with two amazing runners, a logistics/support driver, and a 198? RV, went from the VA hospital in Los Angeles to the top of Mt Soledad Veterans’ Memorial in San Diego, 161 miles for 161 women killed supporting combat operations since 9/11. Considering how impactful this event was in my life, it’s hard to believe that it sort of happened by chance.

I heard about Valor Run, and the amazing women who completed this memorial run before me, by random. I was heading up to the Pacific Northwest to run the Jack and Jill Downhill marathon. Something in Facebook’s algorithm must have picked up on that and showed me a post from Bridgett, a Marine who was completing the run. Chance had it that we were in town for the event and my friends and I got to share a few miles with her.

I was heading up to the PNW because the Pathman family told me about this sweet race. I had met Jim and Riley years before as they flew by me during the first 1.5 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon (another example of doing something on a whim). Jim actually picked me up from the airport when I first moved to San Diego. He lent me his car, which I dinged up, and then lent me his RV for this adventure, which I also dinged up, but so did Becca!

I met Becca a year or so prior to the Valor Run, in the Philippines. We were both assigned to an exercise that demanded very little of either of our talents. So we mostly passed the time eating Samosas and doing a wine mile in the sauna that is Manila in May. Becca got out of the Marine Corps shortly after that meeting (I swear she was leaving before she met me), but we stayed in touch and she graciously agreed to take a pause on her world-wide travelling to drive me and my two friends down the coast – as well as make our sandwiches, answer our phones, restock our groceries, take our pictures, map our course, refill our camelbacks, tell us jokes, and keep our spirits as high as possible. Becs shows her love through service, and man she must have really loved us.

She did have some help though. Sam’s wonderful family came out in spades to support. I had met Sam a year or so prior to Valor Run. I was heading out to AZ to help crew for a friend’s 100 miler and decided to look at the entry list to see if anyone was travelling from San Diego. I found Sam. I creepily looked her up on social media, decided she didn’t look like a total weirdo or dangerous criminal and we carpooled to the desert. Our friendship grew with every 4am hike and impassioned conversation about feminism or various other social injustices. Sam is one of the most impressive, badass ultra-athletes I know the fourth side to our little trapezoid – Michelle.

Of all the folks on the run, I knew Michelle the longest, so it’s no surprise that she was one of the first people to jump in, running shows first, for this adventure. Michelle is hands down the best ultra-runner I know. Not just because she crushes races – winning her first ever 100-miler (only a few minutes off the women’s record), and not just because she trains at 3am in order to her intense surgical residency program (I won’t even tell you where she went to school), but because after meeting her at a race (that she won while I dropped out at 50 miles), she got my number from a friend a few days later and reached out to check on me. She doesn’t have an athlete profile on Facebook, she doesn’t even have sponsors any more (although she could have both), she’s just not that kind of person. She’s the kind of person who calls a stranger after she fails to ask her how she’s feeling.

I could write a whole blog post about how awesome my friends are, but that’s not what this is about. This is about how lucky I am that I met all these folks – that the winds of chance brought them all into my life.

Looking back, it seems like it was pure luck, meeting these folks at those times, but then again, maybe not. Maybe it was choice over chance. I often say that I make all my major life decisions on a whim – but I still make the decisions. After all, I had chosen to be a runner so many years ago. I had chosen to go to San Diego (with some urging from the Marine Corps0. I had chosen to run that first Marine Corps Marathon when my friend dared me I couldn’t. I had chosen to try (and fail) at my first 100. I had chosen to risk being the weirdo on the internet and reach out to Sam before a race, and I had chosen to go to the Philippines for an exercise. Of all the bad choices I’ve made in my life, I’ve made some pretty amazing ones too.

And mostly I chose to try and befriend these folks, or maybe they chose me? I don’t really believe in a design maybe it is just chance….or maybe I have more control then I think. I know it’s a mix – of chance and choice, but I’m not sure the balance. I’m not so arrogant as to think that all of my good fortune is a direct and complete result of good choices. Nor am I so naïve or fatalist as to think that my choices don’t matter. Maybe I’ll never know the ratio. Maybe the best I can do is recognize the chance when it comes – for love, for growth, for friendship and, then choose it. And choose it hard.






The Freedom of Insignificance


I took a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles this week. While I’ve been travelling pretty consistently since completing my run, it’s been mostly by plane. This train ride was the first slow travel I’ve done since the slowest travel of running across the country. I spent a little over nine hours through the mountains and down the coastline of this beautiful nation. Once again, I was struck by just how massive it all is – the mountains, the ocean, the rows and rows of seemingly endless fields. Aside, or maybe because of, the massive beauty of it all, it made me feel powerful, free, and incredibly insignificant.


It’s how I feel in a giant library. I’m frantic to finish this book, or that book, to complete a reading challenge or clear my “to read” list. But there’s always another book, another 1,000 books. It’s how I feel on a ship surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean in any direction. It’s how I felt in the mountains, across the plains, and standing at the Atlantic shore. Contrary to what you might think, however, that insignificance doesn’t weigh me down. It doesn’t make me feel helpless or powerless. It makes me feel free. If that mountain doesn’t care if you climb it, the road doesn’t care if you conquer it with speed, you’re free to do it for yourself. No one is forcing you, and the only one really benefitting is you. You do it, because it’s what you want to do. Because you want to be better, because you want to learn, because you want to be the person on the other side of the adventure. What’s more powerful or freeing that that?


We freedom belongs to important people. Rich, powerful people have more freedom to travel, to do what they want, to get away with what they want. But there’s a power, and a freedom that comes with insignificance too. There’s a freedom to mess up, a freedom to be authentic, and freedom to disconnect, even only for a few days or a few minutes. There’s a freedom to step back and look at the biggest problem in your life as a fleeting blip. The problem is not so overwhelming, not so permanent then.


This isn’t to say we don’t all have a power and responsibility to make changes, progress when we can. We do. We owe that to each other. And as Margaret Mead is often quoted, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” and I agree wholeheartedly with that. But that vastness of our country, our planet, space, puts it in perspective. It provides balance to our striving, our need to achieve, and more importantly, it gives humility to our own self-importance. 



Things I Learned...Endure the Bear 50K

 Photo Credit: Linda Eckert, on the day we met

Photo Credit: Linda Eckert, on the day we met

Originally written in September 2014, after my very first SoCal Ultra. A 50k where I came in first, then was quietly disqualified for reasons I'm still not convinced were legit....

It was a good day at church...things I learned:

It is possible to chafe in silkies....ever so slightly. 

If you do happen to start chafing, simply rolling said silkies under until they more resemble underwear than shorts is a efficient and appropriate solution. Skies out thighs out? How about skies out chi's out? Tips also helps with tan lines. Problem solved, problem staying solved.

While I normally have such good luck taking medical advice from strangers on a trail, when a man offers you baby oil based gel for chafing, DO NOT TAKE IT. Unless you like the burn of what is seemingly gasoline on chafed skin. 

My ankles roll 90 degrees. Like a full 90. 

For being a Midwest/East Coast transplant, I didn't do too bad in the mountains and altitude. 

The views here are, as one runner described, legit. 

I'm pretty bad on downhills...need some trekking poles. 

But with a little Meatloaf and Manfred Mann and a downhill at mile 26, it feels like flying. 

It's a amazing how little it takes to put on a great race. I don't care about sweet medals or tee shirts or fancy after parties. It takes a sweet location, a couple cases of fat tire, and some decent people handing out water.

It's also incredible how a mountain or a course can both crush and then restore your soul. 

Running, especially running distance is the best way I know how to be grateful. I'm eternally grateful for everything and everyone that/who has taught me about physical fitness, strength, personal goals, blah blah blah...

I run for a lot of reasons. But one of the biggest reasons is to find and deal with my demons. Everyone has them, some call them something else - failures, ghosts, flaws, faults, shortcomings, weaknesses. They vary in strength, depth, longevity, and darkness but they're there. I find them on a run because they are partially what brought me here in the first place. I find them on a solo run because I have no one to distract me. I spend miles thinking if all sorts of things, what to eat, funny stories, inspirational quotes, sentimental Facebook quotes. Then they're there. Some are vanquished in a mile or two, some take 100s, some have been with me for 1000s of miles along 100s of trails. And it always find mine but right between "I'm bored" and grabbing the iPod, that's were the demons are, at least that's where mine are. And you have to fight them, because right behind them is peace. Sometimes there's  happiness, or a solution to a problem or even acceptance, but there's always peace.  



The Daily Playlist, Part 1


A couple folks asked me if I listened to anything during my run, so I thought I’d share my approach and my playlist. The first third of each day I’d listen to an audiobook, the second I’d switch to podcasts (thank you 1000 times to NPR), and for the last third I’d turn to music, starting with my daily playlist. In no particular order…

1) “Praying” by Kesha, because wow. I’ve never been through something like this, but I think we can all relate to the feeling you get when you move through something painful and can truly leave a terrible person behind.

“I'm proud of who I am, No more monsters, I can breathe again”

2) “Dig Down” by Muse. A friend sent me this during the first week and I love both the instrumental and the message in the words.

“When they've left you for dead (dig down), And you can only see red (dig down), You must find a way”

3) “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Dig Down, Rise Up. I found this song the week before I started the run, then I watched the video which is absolutely incredible. It speaks to the power of love and the power of women. If I had to pick one song to listen to on repeat for the run, this probably would have been it.

 “I'll rise up, Rise like the day, I'll rise up, In spite of the ache, I will rise a thousand times again.”

4) “Car Radio” by twenty one pilots. I love just about anything by this duo, but this song in particular always made me feel the freedom and pure joy of running fast. It speeds up in the middle, slowly building until it explodes with emotion. Every line of this song is amazing, so I urge to you either read the lyrics or listen to the track if you haven’t.

“My lungs will fill and then deflate They fill with fire, exhale desire” and that’s just the chorus.

5) “My Shot,” “Satisfied,” “Wait for It,” “Yorktown,” and “Non-Stop,” by Cast of Hamilton. I listened to this soundtrack almost every day the year leading up to the race. It says everything about hard work and perseverance. Unfortunately, those things got Hamilton shot, but I think the lesson still stands.

“Ev’ry day you fight, Like you’re running out of time”

6) “Diamonds (Remix)” by Rihanna ft Kanye West. Say what you want about Mr. West, his music is genius. I’ve said that ultra-running requires a balance of humility and arrogance and Kanye’s lines are pure arrogance.

 “We in this party and nobody invited me”

7) “Roll Me Away” by Bob Segar.  I gotta have some Segar on the list. I love all his work, and know most of it, but Roll Me Away is everything I love about freedom. It’s the most appropriate Segar song for this adventure. I love the idea of choosing the next path, of looking for signs from the universe, and the idea that every day you get a chance to do it better.

“I spoke to the faintest first starlight. And I said next time. Next time. We'll get it right”

8) “The Only Way I Know” by Jason Aldean. Yes, I know this is such a cornball of a song, but whatever I love it. It obviously reminds me of home. It reminds me not just of the lessons of hard work and grit, but also of the stubbornness that there might be a better way, but I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. It reminds me of how narrow-minded, in a sense, I was. I learned hard work and physical labor was the only option for how to live, it’s just how it is. You can get tired, you can get pushed back, just get back up and keep going. It’s rugged individualism mixed with just the right ignorance, which is a great combo for trying to run across the country.

“Sun in our eyes backs to the fences. We didn’t know the odds were against us. Hit the wall smoking and spinning. Still wasn’t thinking ‘bout nothing but winning.”

9) “Freedom” by Beyoncé ft. Kendrick Lamar. The chorus on this song is amazing, Kendrick’s verse is incredible, the whole song is perfect for running. It has a sort of military march beat to it. It literally says “I’m gonna keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves,” and has all the fierceness of Beyoncé. It’s also all about individualism and freedom and the power we all have inside ourselves.

“And when they carve my name inside the concrete I pray it forever reads freedom.”

10) “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten because honestly, duh. The title says it all, it’s about fighting. Fighting to make your voice heard. Fighting to break free of whatever bullshit tells you can’t (freedom was a theme here…) and about the sacrifices you make when you just have a passion that you can’t put out.

“And it's been two years I miss my home, But there's a fire burning in my bones”

So that’s the first ten of my “Daily” playlist. I know that smell is the sense most closely linked to memories, but hearing just one or two notes of any of these songs instantly takes me back to road, even makes me miss it a little…..


The Moon and Me


The Moon and Me

                                                                                          The Moon over Arizona:  maggiemae3486

                                                                                         The Moon over Arizona: maggiemae3486

Big week for the moon huh? I took a peek here on the East coast, so it was a little less impressive, but I still felt that kinship I feel with that flying ball of rock, a kinship I’ve felt since my run.

As most of you have heard me bitch and moan, the first two weeks of last year’s run were downright awful. So awful that I still haven’t had the emotional courage to mentally return to them. Over six months later, those memories are still too raw to touch, let alone begin to process. Except for my memories of the moon. I remember arriving in Texas on day 44 for a rest day. My driver and I were staying on a little ranch with two amazing people, a cranky cat, and a half pet/half wild rabbit. We took a sunset tour of the place and arrived back to the homestead as the moon was rising. This was my first moon sighting since my exodus out of the great southwestern desert, and I remember smiling. I may have even winked at the thing – go ahead and judge the corny cliché.

I know I know, everyone loves the moon. Hippies form drum circles and perform rituals to the moon. There are 1000s of poems, memes, and quotes about the moon – justifiably so. It’s the very thing that drives the tides. It moves entire oceans, it deserves a little attention. It’s romantic and powerful, and people love it.

But they didn’t have my relationship with the moon. They never begged it to stay, thinking it was the only thing to keep you sane and safe (literally, the desert is very dark and I always forgot fresh batteries). They never begged it to go away because they knew they could stop moving when brother sun appeared. The moon has never watched them cry loudly, then quietly, even silently. It never comforted them like it comforted me. The moon got me through that hell of a wasteland, a phrase that accurately describes both the desert and my mental state. The moon has never loved anyone else like that.

Except that’s nonsense. The moon isn’t a person. It’s not capable of love. Frankly it gives zero fucks about the pain and suffering of me or anyone else.

It is like the mountains in that regard. I remember trading the desert for mountains out of Phoenix, frustrated, cursing everything from the Louisiana purchase to gravity,[1] but mostly cursing the mountains. There’s a reason that mountains are used to describe struggle. I’d pretend they were great test sent by the universe. They just wanted to see if I could earn my place among the mountain people, the trail runners, the dirt bags. I convinced myself that this was an elaborate initiation rite, at the end of which I’d look back and the mountains would whisper “Welcome, we knew you could do it all along.” Like a granite sensei. Again, the mountains don’t care. They aren’t the keepers of the initiation rite. They could care less if you make it or not. They neither spur your success nor cause your failure. In fact they are scientifically incapable of caring.

Still I get comfort from the moon, and the mountains. Maybe because the moon is my link to that painful time, a time that I can yet return. Maybe because it was my greatest source of comfort and consistency during that time. Like the sun, the moon was the way to mark time but without the searing heat dehydration, and subsequent rash that looked suspiciously like greyscale. Maybe they aren’t the keepers of the elusive club of transcendental, mellowed out sages. Maybe the tests aren’t in the mountains rising from the ground or the magnetic power from the sky, maybe they’re in my head. The mountains and the moon, they’re there for whatever lesson I choose to learn. They’re not what’s testing me, they’re for whatever gets me through the night.

[1] The absence of either would have made a transcontinental run much easier. 

 "Blue Blood Moon":  @briescat

"Blue Blood Moon": @briescat



We're on a Break


Understandably, running and I have taken a little break. It’s not only necessary for my physical and mental recovery, it’s necessary for our long-term relationship. My love affair with running has been my most stable adult commitment and obviously last year we took it to an intense new level. Now, I’m backing off.

This isn’t without a struggle. I’m frustrated when I have to walk during a three-mile jog. I’m worried about how bad my feet hurt after walking – just walking – around DC for a week. Moreover, I’m concerned that races don’t interest me or that the idea of knocking out a long run on a Saturday morning is completely foreign. I sometimes joke that I may never run again, but we all know that’s not true. And I’m ok with that, because that’s what a committed relationship is.

I’m ok stepping back because I know it’s just a break, not a break-up. I’m ok watching that number on the scale creep back up and the once defined lines in my quads recede – because it is temporary. Because I know that forcing the miles will do more to hurt me, and my love of running, than giving us some space will. I also know that as much as I love running, as much as it has colored how I view the world and myself, it can’t have all of me. I have to have a life off the road. I refuse to be that girl who can only talk about one thing.

It’s time for some counter-balance.

It is time to concentrate on some other things – reflect and process the miles in a rational way (because nothing about me or that run was rational), write more, and finish that ultramarathon of a dissertation. It’s time to focus on the relationships that were strained on the trek and see how I can apply the lessons learned on that white line to making things better.

I know I’ll always love running, so I’m ok taking sometime for other things. I don’t know what our future relationship will be like, but I know it will be. 


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Where Did Your Money Go?


I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it, this run was overwhelming in a lot of ways – some good, some bad. One of the best ways was how much people from every corner of my life supported me – financially or otherwise. Crowdrise says we had 241 donations online alone! So, what did we do with all that money?

We started out the run by completing the fundraising for Team Liam’s specialized racing chair, custom made by Team Hoyt Racing Chairs with artwork by Liam’s IRun4 buddy Ty Godwin. As Ty says, this was a classic example of “give a dime, get a dollar.” Through your donations, we not only got to gift Liam a chair, but we got give Joan and Fabian (Liam’s parents) the opportunity to run with their child – and I got a couple new wonderful friends.

We also we able to complete fundraising for a chair for another San Diego teenager – Andy, the son of Robin and Heath. Another military family, Robin is the Ainsley’s Angels ambassador in Southern California and does amazing work for special needs athletes.

As we hit the halfway point in Oklahoma, your money went to fund a Freedom racing chair for the Meredith and Laura and their amazing family of Annie’s House. These ladies are truly remarkable. They have five special needs children and are truly a source of love and caring for everyone they meet.

As we crossed over into Arkansas your donations funded two freedom racing chairs for the new Ainsley’s Angels ambassadorship in Arkansas led by Jarrett Banks – another new friend. Jarrett is doing absolutely wonderful things in Ft Smith, both through Ainsley’s Angels and his church, where he’s a pastor.

Your donations also funded two freedom chairs for Ainsley’s Angels in Washington State, run by good friend and lovely human Sarah Poppe. Sarah, an Army spouse, nurse and all around badass of love, came out to support for a few days and is one of my most precious friends.

Your donations also sponsored a Team Hoyt racing chair for the San Diego chapter of Team Hoyt, triathlon equipment for Team Hoyt Virginia Beach, and racing equipment for the Illinois ambassadorship of Ainsley’s Angels – run by my sister Rachel! Your donations also supported Team Hoyt Arizona and the soon to be official Team Hoyt Ohio!!

For the veterans, we were able to invest in a veteran mead maker as she launches her mead business, Wit and Mettle Meads. As part of that investment, Marine veteran Casey Jackson granted Run Free naming rights to a line of mead brewing right now! The new line will be named “No Worries” and will be dedicated to CWO2 Miles P Henderson. Miles was killed in Iraq in 2006. His mother and father hosted me on their ranch in Canadian, TX and “No Worries” is a shortened version of one of Miles’ favorite bible verses – Philippians 4:6.

We were also able to donate $2500 to the Mission Continues, an organization that helps veterans transition to a life of service outside the military and $6000 to Warrior Expeditions. Warrior Expeditions, founded and run by Sean Gobin, sponsors veterans on outside expeditions as a way to transition from wartime experiences. Sean came out to the run to support through some of the hottest days and yet another remarkable human being.

We were also able to make a $500 donation to Jacksonville, Il AMVETs post, who graciously hosted a celebration party for me.

For the gold star family community, we were able to donate $3000 to wear blue: run to remember Gold Star race program. This program sponsors gold star families to run marathons as a way to honor and grieve their fallen family members.

Finally, with $5000 we were able to support next year’s Run for the Fallen a cross country tribute to fallen service members sponsored by Honor and Remember.

Altogether you all have contributed $46k to this adventure and the communities who have embraced me. I’ve had a few more requests for specialized equipment so I’m going to keep the fundraiser open indefinitely, or at least until I decide on the next adventure, so feel free to make your Christmas donations, Hanukkah gifts, or non-denominational tax contributions here.

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What's Next?

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Has it really be a month since I hit the Atlantic Ocean? Seems like just yesterday, and a lifetime ago. I’ve been asked a lot this month, “What’s Next?” both in life and running. And while I have about seven answers to the first part (seriously – journalist, advocate, mental health/running coach, non-profit leader, professional feminist, FSO, security wonk), I have one awesome answer to the second.

What’s next is a 6,000 mile, relay run across the country, from Ft Irwin, California to Arlington, VA. Wait, Maggie, didn’t you just do that? Yeah, but this is different, stick with me.

In April of next year, Honor and Remember will kick off the largest tribute to Gold Star families I’ve ever seen (possibly ever?). Runners will start in Ft Irwin, CA and run one mile for every service member killed since the USS Cole. Teams of four runners will carry flags honoring our country, our fallen service members, and their gold star families, stopping at each mile to read the name(s) of fallen servicemembers. I’ve had the honor of doing four smaller versions of this over the years and their impact on me has been permanent and profound. At the end of each day the runners and team will conduct a flag ceremony, presenting an Honor and Remember flag to a gold star family in honor of their sacrifice.

So that’s what’s next for me. I’ll help plan the California, Georgia, and South Carolina portions of the run, and try and get out for as many days as I can. But I need your help, again. Here’s how you can get involved.


Check out the website. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sign up for our virtual race for a sweet medal and tee shirt!

Donate to the cause!!!

Sign up to be a runner (or volunteer)!!!

Find your fallen hero, or have their name added here

And as always….SPREAD THE WORD. No, not bird.





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The Importance of Education


Running, like education, is life transforming – it takes you places you never would have imagined

I’ve always said that running was one of my favorite and most effective teachers. The things I’ve learned about myself and life on the trails, including during this cross-country journey, I could have learned in few other places. Experiences allow you to learn from the world and yourself, formal education allows you to learn from others, and that’s why I’ve always been a big advocate for both formal education and experiential knowledge. It’s why I went to college, then joined the Marine Corps. It’s why I also pursued graduate school, twice, while in the Marine Corps and am approaching the end of my doctorate program in international studies.  

I learned a great deal from my time in the Marine Corps. I grew up fast and learned how to lead in my own style. While there were tactical manuals, doctrine, and official publications to reference, the overwhelming majority of what I learned was through experience. During my first deployment, I learned about Afghanistan through reading first-hand reports and translated documents. I learned about the terrain by flying over it. I fancied myself a little bit of an expert on Afghanistan, until I started my master’s thesis on Afghanistan. I quickly realized that my experiences, and what I learned from them, were but a slice of the rich tapestry of knowledge out there.

This desire to gain a deeper understanding of the topics that interested me, inspired me to further my formal education. Just like in the Marine Corps, I would never be an expert in admin or logistics, nor did I have time to experience those lessons firsthand, but I knew there would be an expert somewhere to tell me. Running is the same. I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t through miles and error, but I’ve also picked up a book or two and listened to my fair share of podcasts. As I am now transitioning to civilian life, I have a better understanding of how education played a key role during my time in active duty, and am experiencing the amount of support it provides during my current transition.

I feel fortunate to have found a great partner during this transition, and cross-country journey, through the support of National University. Like National University, I believe in the power of education to inspire and strengthen communities and I am excited to share my experiential and formal knowledge with current and future National University students, many who like me are transitioning to civilian life. In fact, about 25 percent of National University’s student population are active duty, veterans or family members. The University’s founder, retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander David Chigos, understood how deployments, relocations, and work schedules posed a challenge for military students and the University created a format that adapts to our needs, offering a wide range of programs, including cybersecurity, business and criminal justice that are available online, on bases and on campuses.

As a Yellow Ribbon School, the University also accepts the post 9/11 GI Bill and strongly supports the Forever GI Bill. An estimated one million military personnel are expected to transition to civilian jobs over the next 3-5- years, which is why the GI Bill has been so beneficial, as is the newer Forever GI Bill, which expands education benefits and further reduces education costs to military-affiliated students. The nation understands that in order to properly support and serve our troops, we have to ensure that they have access to formal education.

I look forward to giving back to others when I return to teach at National University. I believe we all can learn from each other, and I’m certainly doing just that during this journey as I have the chance to connect with people from all walks of life. I am proud to be among those one million military personnel who are transitioning to civilian life, and glad to be channeling my passion for learning through life and education into a new role. Who knows where it will take me but as I strive toward achieving my goals, one step at a time, I hope to inspire others to be lifelong learners and achieve their education, career and life goals.



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Day 85: What the Hell am I doing? Again.

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What the hell am I doing?
I asked that question about 74 days ago, and answered: “running across the country.” I thought that might suffice, that answer might quiet my brain and my heart, but like a persistent toddler eventually the answer led to more, deeper questions, and the “what the hell am I doing” turned into “why the hell am I doing it?” At this point I ask myself that pretty regularly, and every time I go through the same answers and counters. It goes roughly like this:

Why the hell am I doing this?
To raise money and awareness! I tell myself that I’m doing this for the communities that have given so much to me. Then I counter with about 15 ways I could raise money and awareness without the pain of running (or walking) 2800 miles. I could be spending my waking hours organizing fundraisers, cocktail parties. I could be writing five OpEds a day to raise awareness of these great organizations. Try again Mags, why this?

To build communities! To inspire others to get involved! Yeah! I’m an inspiration! Again, I counter. There are thousands of people out there more inspirational than I. I could be working for them, mobilizing communities around their missions. Not buying it, why this?

For your own personal journey, because you love running and it makes you better, stronger, kinder.
The problem with that answer is that I’m not feeling more enlightened, better, or even stronger.

This journey doesn’t feel like progress; I see the icon moving, I know I’m moving forward in space and time, but I don’t feel like I get up every day to meet and vanquish a new obstacle, learn a lesson, and repeat. Physically and emotionally I feel like I get up every day and get pushed back down by the same big jerk, with a dull but painful thud. Sometimes for good fun the day (jerk) will punch me in the face, more of an acute pain to complement the persistent ache. I spent miles one day begging for the lesson through the tears. Frustrated and helpless against the pain, angry at my complete lack of ability to beat it back, to find peace, to find a lesson, searching for anything that made me feel like this was something more than a completely futile exercise in suffering and misery. But the only answer that’s made any sense comes from ultrarunner Scott Jurek.

Sometimes you just do things.

I hated this concept the first time I heard it. “You just do things?” What? That’s bull. You have to have purpose and intent. You don’t just go around “doing things.” Where’s the growth there? How are you bettering yourself or your community by just doing things, unexamined and directionless? How has that nonsense philosophy carried me through, the only thing that has worked, for the past month?

It works because it’s the perfect balance of humility and arrogance, humility that I don't understand the world, the effects of my deeds, that I can’t map it out, there are limits to logic (never thought I'd say that). It’s balanced by the arrogance of believing that I am doing something good, for myself and for others. I have to have the arrogant faith in 2016 Maggie and the October 29th Maggie. That pre-run Maggie knew what she was doing and that post-run Maggie will be a better person, that this pain will alchemize, that future Maggie will find the glory in the grind and make something out of it. She’ll be better, kinder, stronger.

So I'll keep going, not fully understanding why, but making the option of quitting as small as possible, as unattractive as possible. I’ll try and stick to my goals, keep my “why” in front of me for as long as possible and then keep faith that it’s there even as it recedes into pain and self-pity. I’ll go through the whole question and answer inner monologue as many times as I need to. I’ll just keep getting up. Sometimes quietly, clumsily, even angrily. Just keep getting up til I’m done. Because sometimes you just do things. 

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Day 66 or Putting the Social Back in Social Media


Day 66! I’m officially 2/3 of the way through this adventure. I have to say, the past couple weeks have been pretty amazing, and have went by way faster than the first third. Maybe that’s because there have been real live humans! Running with me, eating with me, and chatting with me. Small towns across Middle America have welcomed me with open arms. Almost any runner will tell you that miles with someone are infinitely better than miles alone. So much better that I’m beginning to wonder how I did all those weeks (mostly) alone. Then I realized I didn’t. I’ve had more company than I can count for each of these 66 days, in both virtual and real life.

Social media sites have gotten a bad rep over the years. Studies show kids are less social with their peers, possess less social skills. Insta-celebs have pulled back the curtain on the perfect filtered posts. Internet trolls are hateful on threads. Fake news is rampant across the platforms. Weekly I hear of someone deleting their account or just taking a step back from social media, and I fully support that. Still it’s important to acknowledge how much social media has brought to this run.

I had a couple goals with this run. I wanted to spread awareness and raise money, but I also wanted to meet the folks of middle America – the people I grew up with but haven’t spent much time with since leaving for the Marine Corps. Social media helps with the first, there’s no way I could have been as successful in fundraising without social media. And it’s even with the second goal. Social media has enabled me to share my story and meet new people. It’s connected me to strangers turned running buddies. It’s been a fantastic complement to real life interactions.

Social media has also enabled me to feel the support and love of my communities and loved ones who can’t be here. I can’t count how many times a day I go to my phone for inspiration, a simple good luck or message or support. I have no shame in saying the comments or likes boost my spirit, keep me going. In fact someone asked me today how many times I thought about quitting, and honestly I haven’t, no once, yes because of personal determination and for the causes I care so much about, but also because I told everyone I was going to do it. The idea of making a facebook post saying “ok I’m tired, I’ll call it now,” is ridiculous. Shame has always been a pretty effective motivator, it’s the Midwest in me.

But wait Maggie, do you even know these people? Aren’t you just seeking external validation? Hmmm maybe. But I also don’t know the fans lining the streets of DC during the Marine Corps Marathon. I don’t know the aid workers urging me to get back on the trail, but their energy carries me, inspires me, reminds me of how much I’m loved and supported, how much this running thing can inspire people. I feel that same thing when the support is online. Just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Growing up in a small town I went to kindergarten with the same people I graduated high school with. We (mostly) thought the same, dressed the same, looked the same. We had a tight community, one that will always feel like home to me. It taught me how to be a member of a community, how to rely on those in your group for support, how to give that support back. Still, I rarely met or spoke to people who were different from me. I was limited to be friends with whoever was within walking (my siblings), riding (four neighbors), or driving distance. Social media changed all that. Take this wonderful group, I Run 4, for example. It pairs abled bodied runners (or bikers, swimmers etc) with special needs individuals, virtually. I’ve been paired with my awesome little girl for over a year now and cherish that relationship. I’ve never met her, but feel connected to her through technology.

While social media has exposed me to those who are different from me. It also enables people to find people just like that. Again, take special needs families. While families, especially those dealing with rare genetic disorders, can feel isolated in the physical world, they can find solace and community in the virtual one.

Social media, technology in general, is amoral – it’s all about how we use it. Sure, I get exhausted from notifications, but I get exhausted from people too (yes it’s true). I see people being mean and hateful online, but I see that in person too. It can be used for nonsense, or it can be used to build vibrant, thriving communities. It can connect, or reconnect you, to people who love and support you. It can hold you accountable for your goals. It can open you to diversity, or let you find people just like you. It can help mobilize communities, raise funds, and awareness. It can facilitate all these things if people want it to. And It can give you a street lined with fans along the lonely road.


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Tragedy and Community

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With hurricanes, earthquakes, and a recent tragedy in my hometown, I’ve thought a lot about the links between tragedy and community lately, and never more so than today. I thought about it running through Oklahoma City on 9/11 seeing the mementos left at the city’s memorial, thinking of the attacks 16 years ago, and the response afterward. Political scientists call it “rally around the flag,” after a national tragedy, the phenomenon of increased patriotism and trust in government. Psychologists have studied how outside threats affect group cohesion, and have found that external threats (perceived or real) increase cohesion. Reagan even posited that an alien invasion might be what the world needed to achieve peace. Anyone who has suffered a natural disaster or great personal loss will tell you how a community comes together. The differences that seemed insurmountable prior to, become insignificant after a tragedy. In ultra running there exist an unofficial philosophy, if someone needs something, and you have it – you give it to them. You don’t hoard it in case you need it later. You don’t ask for something in return. You just give it. Later down the road, if you need something you don’t have, someone will give it to you. That’s clearly the philosophy of survivors as well. 

When there is an external threat, one that threatens to destroy us, we quickly discover that we’re all part of a community – whether that’s the local community, the national community, or even a global community of the human species – and we fight to save ourselves, it’s encoded in our DNA. We don’t fight to save our individual selves, we don’t become selfish, we become selfless. Something kicks in and makes us realize that it’s the community we need to save, sometimes at the expense of our own personal safety. I’ve thought about why this is for days, and I’ve come up with some interesting theories – some based on science and reasoning, some based on nothing but Maggie thoughts – like love is the most powerful thing, the universe protects us, etc etc. But honestly, I don’t know why it happens, but I’m sure glad it does.

It gives me a silver lining in tragedy. It provides hope in humanity during the worst possible desperation. It’s the knowledge that while we can’t escape pain, we can have someone by our side, or even a whole village of people. It gives me hope that one day we can tap into that sense of community not only during times of tragedy, but also in times of prosperity. That we can realize in times of peace that we are more alike than others might suggest. That we all have a vested interest in not simply self-preservation but the preservation and progress of the entire community. 

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Day 51 Update


Has it really been over 3 weeks since my last update? I’d like to say it’s been because I’ve been so busy, I’d like to argue that I’ve written over a thousand words the past three weeks, because both are true. But it’s been a struggle to get a coherent post on the page – partly because I have been busy running through middle America, partly because I’ve been trying to soak up as much of this run as possible, maximizing rest days, but mostly it’s because I’ve been overwhelmed, in the best possible way. Overwhelmed with friends flying in to surprise me in Albuquerque. Overwhelmed with the wounded veterans presenting me with an honorary purple heart on behalf of all the wounded. Overwhelmed with the smell of the Pampa VFW, because it smelled just the like church where we shipped Devon off to Iraq. Overwhelmed with complete strangers opening their arms and their doors to us. Overwhelmed because we haven’t paid for a meal since hitting the Texas border. Overwhelmed when the WWII vet thanks me for my service. Overwhelmed because the small towns here remind me so much of where I’m from. Overwhelmed with the pain that small community is enduring right now. Overwhelmed with the Gold Star family who hosted us, and reminded me so much of my parents and even a little bit of my grandparents. I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support, faith, and love I’ve gotten from all corners of my world. And if I’m being completely honest I’ve been insecure in my ability to do these experiences justice. I want to share them, I desperately want to write them down so I can remember every little seemingly mundane detail, hoping for the ability to capture the solemn and the simple, without being over sentimental. I read a book in college, The Places in Between, about a British man who walked across Afghanistan. I didn’t really understand that title until this week – but it’s really the places and the moments in between that have made this run.

When I last updated I had had my first emotional breakdown just inside of New Mexico. Day 29-30 I had my friends Justin and Linday, who took time during their anniversary weekend to come run and support. Ok mostly walk and support. It was sorely needed. Day 30 I was booted off native lands, and rightly so, I didn't do the due diligence of researching and requesting a permit. Turned out to be a blessing as the reservation officer let us know that it was legal to run on the interstate in New we backtracked (wasting 10 miles) and headed back out of the interstate, which ended up saving us about 10 miles. The universe seems to work like that sometimes.

Getting close to Texas we thought about maybe riding the 40 all the way across to OK, shortening our mileage, but talking to our guy in Texas, we decided to take the backroads and hit some small town USA. Boy, I'm glad we did. But more on that later.

Day31 brought a surprise guest, Michelle, who flew out to Albuquerque despite her demanding residency schedule to share some miles. Michele is much faster and fitter than me, but she walked step for step with me, and it felt so good to catch up. Becca would come join us for some miles, reminding me of just how lucky I am to have such strong supportive women in my life.

Day 31 also brought the eclipse, which thanks to a welder along the route who let us borrow his helmet, we were both able to see without burning our retinas. We also were surprised with a visit from the 512th rescue squadron at the beautiful New Mexico Veterans Memorial. The CO presented me with a coin, patch, and bracelet as a reminder of what brave men and women train to do every day. About midway through Day 32 we were surprised with none other than Team Pathman. Despite my hot water balloons of pain (aka my feet) I jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a toddler when I saw them cruising down the hill. I got to share a few miles over the next couple days with Jim and Riley, more thankful than ever that I’ve got such amazing people in my life. Day 36 we stayed at the JX ranch in middle of nowhere New Mexico. Tom, a Vietnam Vet, and his wife Mimi were fantastic hosts wishing us luck and even making a donation, and Becca thinks their steak might be the best she ever tasted. Day 37 brought a new friend, and the first “stranger” to join me on the run – an Army reservist from a nearby base joined me for two days. She’s no longer a stranger.

Day 38 was a much-needed rest day in Amarillo, or sorry, “Amarilla”. A friend of mine had reached out to a friend of hers, Caralee, who arranged an entire day of pampering and rest. Spa treatment, massage, lunch at an amazing Italian restaurant, shoes and running gear from Get Fit Amarillo – I was beginning to see what people were meaning about Texas hospitality. Day 39 we hit Friona, the Cheeseburger capital of Texas. I thought about asking for a tofu burger but figured that might be considered an insult, so I got the local Mexican food. We had dinner and tasty ice with the mayor and then headed into Hereford, home of the whitefaces (it’s a cow not some sort of weird racist thing). Along the road I ran into Merrill, a local welder who rode his bike to say hello. I got 8 miles in with an Amarillo resident, and another new friend. I was presented with some amazing mementos from local veterans’ organizations (who skipped Friday night football to welcome me – how about that!?) I hit a pretty good stride on day 43, through the town of White Deer which has at least four antique shops for its 100 or so residents. I picked out a treasure box to hold all the treasures (aka things we find on the side of the road). We finished up at the Pampa VFW where we shared beers and bawdy jokes with the members. Day 44 and 45 were spent with the Gold Star family in Canadian, TX. We got a full tour of the town, an interview with the local paper, and my very first zipline! Their land was beautiful, their home inviting, and their spirit encouraging. They even bestowed upon us honorary Texan citizenship. Day 46 meant crossing into Oklahoma, windy with rolling hills for the next few days – and more gracious people. We stopped in Hinton, OK for a meet and greet and dinner and couldn’t even pay for our dinner. We made it to Oklahoma City, where my recruiter joined me for a couple miles and we hit the halfway point. After a chair donation and get together with the local chapter of Ainsley’s Angels we had some much-deserved pizza and beer, where I met a woman who had just finished walking across the country – see there are plenty of weirdos out there. She was heading back across the country and stopped in OKC to say hello to some folks who had taken her and her dog in for a couple weeks (she picked up the pooch somewhere in Arkansas). Amazing.

It’s now getting darker here on Day 51 with a pretty hectic Day 52 right around the corner. The past few weeks have been nothing short of soul-reviving. Aside from the people and places, the miles have given me a lot to think, and write, about….now if I can just get it down on the screen.



Day 27: My Most Boring Adventure or Maggie has a Meltdown


This must be the world’s most boring adventure. I know I know, shut up with the complaining already. I should be grateful that all I have to do every day is wake up, run, recover. Running is probably my favorite thing, And I get to do it for causes I care so much about it. Now I even get to run in some of the most beautiful places in this country. My life is pretty simple right now, wake up, run, recover. That’s it. That’s all I have to do. That’s all I get to do. FSM it’s boring – monotonous chaos.

I always hear from people that running is boring, but I’ve rarely thought that. My mind wanders, I listen to audiobooks, I meditate, I mull over things – sometimes too much. It’s peaceful and calm, but not boring. This run is the worst of both worlds. It’s boring but inside my mind is pure chaos. My thoughts are wandering, they’re ping ponging around my skull. My brain refuses to focus while my legs seem pretty focused on not moving.

But still I plodded along this week, met my mileage goal and stayed on track. Wake up, run, recover. I did get caught in a rainstorm for about 2 miles on Monday, that along with running with the cows was about the most excitement I had in four days. Judging by the waste left by the cows along my running path, I’d argue it was more excitement for them than for me. Tuesday came along, more cows, more desolate land, more boring pain. I have 75 more days of this? I thought back to that commercial where all these famous athletes are waking up at dawn and hitting the track, gym, or pool. It’s meant to show that winning (or in my case finishing) isn’t a 2-minute adventure, it’s years of the grind. The commercial tries to church it up, make the grind seem inspirational. I bought it then. I do not buy it now. There is no glory in the grind. No glowing sweat or encouraging coach. No rival you wake up every morning to beat – just the grind. Fine, I thought, that’s what endurance is right? There may be no glory here, but goddamnit I’m going to find my grit. There’s plenty of that to be had. I settled in for 10 more weeks of boring miles. If that was my lesson I was going to learn it. I had all day, I had all the days ahead of me too.

Then hobbling along with a mile to go on Tuesday, Crack. Wide open. I started sobbing. No, wailing. Now there's ugly crying and there's drunk crying and then there was this, the ugliest and most irrational cry I’ve ever had. I cried dry tears, fat wet tears, snot tears, some mix of dirt and sunscreen tears.  I cried so hard the cows mooed in solidarity, or mockery. I cried out of pain, not really what I felt that day but every pain I had ever felt, every pain anyone I had loved had ever felt. War, death, the loss of children, addiction, the feeling of pure helplessness when the pain you've been fighting back, holding in finally demands to be felt. I wailed for all of it. 

Funny run, real funny. Decided to change the lesson up on me. Fine, I’ll listen. This is what I learned: in my wailing I was not desperate for the pain to stop. Maybe I knew that was hopeless, maybe I even invited it a little, I mean I was bored. Instead of wishing for the pain to recede, in that moment, I so desperately wanted comfort. I was calling for my loved ones, out loud, willing them to be by my side. To just be there telling me it was ok.

I can deal with pain, sometimes I run from it just like everyone else, but I know that's a temporary fix. I can endure pain, I can even in a pinch endure it alone. But I don't want to. I don’t want to be an island. When I’m in pain I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to shove it deep down inside and try to handle it solo. I want someone to hold my hand when I face the scary pain, pour me a whiskey when I hit the helpless pain, and even grab me the nasal spray when I’m crying so hard I can’t breathe. How's that for miss independent? Luckily for me I’m surrounded by people who will, and have, done just that.

Man, this post got a little deep – but don’t worry (Mom), I’m doing just fine, working my way through my third state and even if it’s buried under the boredom and the chaos, I’m very grateful for this experience – the ability, the opportunity, and the village of support behind me.



Day 20 Update!

Day 20! 20% done, well time-wise and if all goes according to plan, which so far it has not – but I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts on this journey and a few have talked about the power and utility of chaos. For a woman with a color-coded daily planner, chaos is not my preferred method. Nonetheless, I have to give some credence to the idea that it is very very useful to be comfortable in the unknown, the unpredictable, the chaotic. This run has been chaotic, monotonous chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Nature is inherently chaotic. There are no straight lines in nature. No black and white and often no discernable pattern. Being comfortable in that environment means you have to have both focus and confidence. Focus on the priorities and confidence in your ability to flex. I knew I was going to have to be able to flex going into this, just was not aware of how much and how early. I wrote earlier about the importance of symbols and how this run was symbolic to me. Part of that symbolism was running route 66 through my home town in Illinois. Sadly I made the call this week to run a more direct route to Virginia Beach. The decision was hard. The thought of running along my old high school cross country routes, with my family and friends was a giant motivating factor for me. I moved away from my hometown 13 years ago, but have always kept that community in my heart. I’m chronically homesick and know that so much of who I am as a person comes from that place. Still, that place also taught me the value of practicality over sentimentality. For a whole host of practical reasons, the new route gives me the best chance of finishing this thing healthy and in time for other commitments in November. That being said, my sister has already offered to throw me a celebratory party after I finish J Check out the new route and dates here.

Overall week 3ish was a very good week. We hit our mileage goal every day, I feel rested and healthy, and I’ve begun to actually enjoy the miles. Coming out of the desert to Phoenix, I felt like I was a phoenix rising from the proverbial ashes of a wasteland. I’m sure having Team Hoyt AZ with me was the spirit-bolster. Let’s talk about that group for a minute. Most of those members live in Tucson, 2 hours from Phoenix. Most I’ve never met, a few had special needs children to care for, and yet with 5hours notice they showed up in the middle of the desert and THANKED ME for letting them come along on the journey. THANKED ME! I was so stoked to have such awesome company, I didn’t shut up the whole night. To top it off, one of the members Mark ran the whole night with me. He’d never run an ultra before, obviously wasn’t training for this endeavor, and never once complained. Where did I get so lucky to have these people in my life? Phoenix also meant lunch with one of my friends from college (did I really graduate 10 years ago?). I was exhausted and actually thought about cancelling lunch, soooo glad I didn’t. We caught up, ranted, even had a few brunch cocktails. Then, because the universe has decided that I somehow deserve the most amazing village ever, I got two nights with Laura Sutton – a friend who I swear lives every hour in service of someone or something else. She organizes all the Runs for the Fallen and is currently organizing a massive run across the nation for next year to honor gold star families. If you’re at all jazzed about my run, check out this awesome event and get involved! More at

We set out for higher and greener pastures on Monday, trading heat for elevation. Tuesday was pretty awful – yelling at the mountains awful, so we’ll just move on from there. (note the mountains gave zero f$%^s about me yelling). Wednesday, we decided to try some day running like normal humans and it was pretty good – weather stayed reasonable and the views were exactly what a soul needs – expanses of green earth and blue skies. The hills were brutal, and I did A LOT of walking, but we got the miles in, even ran most the downhill singing Beyonce and Meatloaf as loud as my lungs could manage. I must have looked like a freak. Today’s rest day was awesome. I had a whiskey sour at a local tavern. I chatted with locals and vacationers, took care of admin, and finally ate a decent day of calories. Wrapping up this rest day I feel ready for the next week or so of running, excited for what’s to come, hopeful my body holds it together, and grateful for this opportunity. 



Day 13: What the Hell am I Doing?

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It’s Day 13, my first real rest day since I set out on this adventure almost two weeks ago. Over the past two weeks there have been two consistent thoughts – “this hurts,” and “what am I doing?” I guess I expected both, but they have certainly manifested in unexpected ways, but I was warned about that too – expect the unexpected.


I expected the pain to be searing, sharp, acutely overwhelming. While some of the physical pain has been, the psychological pain has been something very different. I expected to be cracked open, to have the desert and miles break the shell that keeps all the demons in. Instead it’s felt more like a slowly increasing weight, on my shoulders, in my stomach, on my heart. I’m remind of the proverb of how to boil a frog. You can’t drop the frog in the boiling water, it’ll jump right out. You set the frog in lukewarm water and slowly increase the heat. That’s what this run feels like, both metaphorically and literally.


I don’t think the reality of the task, at least not the enormity of it, has fully set in, and maybe that’s my saving grace. Nonetheless, I do find myself wondering what the hell I’m doing. On the first night, I dreamt that I was trying to dance with Riley, one of the Team Hoyt athletes, and slipped and fell into the icy ocean. People tried to help me, but as I felt them touch my legs I did not feel relief, I felt panic, I felt like they were going to pull me further under. I took a deep breath at the surface and as I sank back into the water I told myself to stay calm and do what I knew, inflate my shirt, tie my life jacket down and kick to the surface. In my dream, I swam to safety the only way I knew how, by trusting what others had taught me and my instincts. When I woke up I didn’t have to look far for the metaphor.


As to the answer to my question, I am running across the country. That’s what the hell I am doing. From day one, that is what I have been doing. We may have had van problems, I may be behind in mileage. I may feel like I can’t do it, like my gift is not enough, but that doubt puts me in a proper relationship with reality. My reality may not be what I expected, but it’s what I wanted, it is what the universe has decided I needed. I stopped at a VFW and had a drink with veterans. I woke up underneath the stars. I battled blisters. I navigated ATV trails, wadis, and even the open desert. I rolled under barbed wire fences, snapped pictures with border guards. I greeted horses, cows, and desert donkeys. I felt tired and beaten. I ran in the early morning hours while watching a desert thunderstorm.  I ran away from bats. I ran by what appeared to be a baby bear. I’ve met my daily mileage goal. More often, I’ve fallen short of my daily goal. I’ve raised money and awareness. I connected with people. I ran through Native American reservations. I ran along the interstate. I cried. I cried some more. I doubted. I laughed. I doubted more. I crossed one state line. I felt the heat, the darkness, the loneliness, and even a little of the joy. I walked. I hobbled. I ran. I am walking, hobbling, running across the country – reminding myself every day that this run is not about the launch or the finish, but all the miles in between. 



Day 0

Day 0:

“When you want something, the whole Universe conspires to give it to you.” Replace “universe” with friends and I’m on board.

I fully intended to spend today examining and articulating my feelings, but I really only had one feeling, irritation. During the two days prior to the biggest run of my life and my flight is cancelled and then delayed. My support vehicle dies. Tow takes five hours (yes five) to get a tow. Shop says can’t be fixed til Monday. UPS won’t hold my package for one additional day. The rack company doesn’t send a rack. Sends two attachments, no rack. Tee shirts aren’t ready. Luggage rack isn’t put on right. No parking spot for the van. After each “you’re kidding me” moment a friend steps in and saves the day, offers a car, a solution, their time, coffee. A friend drives down to surprise me for the launch. My mom sends me a photo and a sweet text. My love brings me back down to calm.

Long story short, about 10 things went wrong today, but none of it mattered, not really. I have my shoes, my phone, and an incredibly deep web of support. And that’s all you need, for any grand adventure. The belly full of pasta and vino drizzled laughs are just perks.

To tomorrow! 



So, what's the symbology there?


We all love symbols. Tattoos are symbols. Flags are symbols. Words are even symbols. We communicate via symbols every day. It’s how we take what’s inside our brains and our souls and share it with other people. Symbols are an essential part of community, and this run is full of symbols.

The run itself is a big symbol, running across the country, from ocean to ocean, covering every inch by foot. It’s not just the massive mileage it’s going to take to do it, heck that was what this was for I could just stay in sunny SoCal and run 35 miles every day. It’s symbolic. It’s symbolic of me reconnecting to my country. It’s symbolic of me transitioning from the Marine Corps to whatever is next in my life.

My starting and ending points are important. I’m starting the run in San Diego, home to Team Hoyt San Diego on the anniversary weekend of their very first race. I’m ending in Virginia Beach, home to the very first chapter of Team Hoyt, on my Team Hoyt anniversary race. I ran my very first Team Hoyt race at the Wicked 10k in 2011. I’ll explain more in a blog later about what Team Hoyt means to me, but in this context Team Hoyt was what made Virginia Beach feel like home. I grew up in a tiny little town in Illinois. I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same house on a dirt road. I can probably still tell you the middle names of everyone I graduate high school left. When I left for college and then the Marine Corps, I was chronically homesick. Sure, I love travelling and adventure, but I’m nester at heart. I need a community, a routine, familiarity. I need that small-town feel, even in the big city. Team Hoyt Virginia Beach gave me that. When I got orders to San Diego, I thought about resigning. I couldn’t leave another home. As fate would have it, Team Hoyt San Diego was founded. So I went to San Diego. I traded my ocean sunrises for ocean sunsets. Different climate, different people, but it was the same community I so desperately needed. Now I get to trade my sunsets for sunrises, and head back to my Team Hoyt home.

Speaking of home, my route is also symbolic. We’ll be covering the first two thirds of the run along historic Route 66. Historically this is route brought people to the west, to new lands, new adventure, new beginnings. It also was an infrastructural reminder of the dangers and restrictions for people of color during the Jim Crow era.

I’ll cross into my home state on the 22nd, exactly 2 months after I begin the journey. 22 is a powerful number itself I’ll be sure to harvest that energy on Oct 22 when I run my 9th Marine Corps Marathon with Bella (our 5th time together!) Side note: the MCM was my very first marathon. I, of course, said I'd never do it again. Ha!

My logos, of course, are symbolic. The bird logo for Run Free, the non-profit founded to support this run features two birds on tennis shoes. The birds are an obvious nod to the freedom often associated with flying, but also a nod to Anna Judd – one of my biggest inspirations for the run. Her transcontinental run in 2014 featured a bird logo. The two birds symbolize the power of a team, specifically the duo teams found in Team Hoyt and Ainsley’s Angels organizations across the country. If you look closely one of the birds only has one leg – because well sometimes we look or act a little different than “normal.” Still, together with a good pair of shoes, the duo can “Run Free.” The logo for the run, the multicolored flag overlaid on the outline of the United States, represents the organizations I’m supporting. The gold is for gold star families, the green for Warrior Expeditions, the pink for Ainsley's Angels, the blue for Mission Continues and Team Hoyt San Diego, the red for Team Hoyt VB, and the brown for the Farmer's Veterans Coalition. Each band represents one of the organizations I’ll be raising money for. Finally, the mantra of my run – “with grace, gratitude, and grit” outlines the way I’m going to approach every mile. Anyone who has done distance with me knows I can get pretty cranky, frustrated, and frankly rude, and often to the very people trying to support me. My favorite was during mile 75 or so of my first 100 miler. My friend Eric gently says “You can do it Maggie.” To which I snapped back “Don’t motivate me. I f’ing know I can do it. I’m 75 miles in do you think I’m going to quit? Do you think you telling me I can goddam do it would stop me? Just go. Run ahead I don’t even want to look at your face or hear you breathing anymore.” Add a couple more f bombs in there would probably be more accurate. In other words, I become grace-less and most certainly don’t exhibit gratitude. Of course, I’m tired and understandably cranky. But as I’ve repeated before, nobody cares who you are when you’re fresh.

I will cease to be “fresh” around midday Sunday. So that mantra is to remind me to give gratitude, act with grace, and move forward with grit. It’s what (hopefully) will fuel me through the gruel. And it sounded better than passion, persistence, and pizza.

So those are my symbols, the things I’ll look to for strength and comfort when I’m in so much pain, and the things I’ll look to to remind me of what I’m trying to do and why I wanted to do it in the first place.