Mile 23: I collapse. My breathing is heavy and my legs are done. I no longer have the strength to support my body. Rusty is biking along side of me, he sees me fall and rushes to my side. “You’ve got this Jo, you are so close.” Dempsey yelling, “Come on, Jo! You are WORTHY.” 7 seconds and I roll to my feet.

“I can NOT give up! I am going to qualify for the trials, just 3 more miles, just 3 more. I WILL NOT GIVE UP.”

My body is screaming and all I want to do is stop. I can’t slow down, my feet have hit the rhythm it’s 6:20 pace or nothing. My legs are yelling, “STOP,” but my mind is screaming louder, “Don’t you dare come this close to this goal to give up. DONT YOU DARE.”

2 miles to go. All I can focus on is taking one more step, then another, get to the finish line. If you have to crawl, crawl. Then Rusty bikes behind me and yells, “You have to suffer for just 12 more minutes, you can suck it up for 12 more minutes!” "

“I can run 12 more minutes. I will run 12 more minutes.”

1 mile to go. Everything is hates me. I have never felt such suffering. How did 19 miles feel so good to come down to the last 5 feeling like hell? But I am so so so close. I’m going to run well under qualifying time. I will qualify today.

.2 miles left. I take the last turn and see the finish! It hits, I’ve done it. I’ve F***ING done it. 4 years ago I was laying in a hospital bed clinging on for dear life. My fist hits the air. We have WON today. We all have won.

I cross and one more fist in the air. I run into the aid at the finish and my legs collapse, all four men are holding me up. My head is spinning. WE DID IT! WE DID IT!

As I sit in the wheelchair reality sinks in. I can’t believe it. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt my body ache and fail like it did those last few miles. I finally get out of the chair and hear the yell, “Jo!” I hobble over tears start flowing from both of our faces. We embrace and I quietly say, “Rusty, we did it. We did it.”

This journey has been far greater than I ever expected. When you test your body in this way it brings this humility to you. As I ran the first 19 miles with a sweet girl along myside, sharing bottles and cheering each other on the whole time, I was reminded of how amazing this sport is and how it is founded on encouragement and teamwork. Yes, it’s an individual sport, but let me tell you I did not achieve an Olympic Trials Qualifier on my own. At mile 22 climbing the last hill a girl saw me struggling and handed me her fluids forcing me to get something in my deprived body. My husband was on the course at multiple points cheering me on and handy me fluids. My family was there reminding me that I am worthy. Worthy of love and this moment. They were there at the end embracing me and crying with me out pure joy of this accomplishment.

The endless miles I put in were with sacrifice and help. The days my friends came alongside and cheered for me. The donations and gifts given to me for me to train with the best and run off to Flagstaff for a month. My training partners, my coach, the support, and all of you routing for me, praying for me, reminding me of my worth in CHRIST and not my performance.

I felt so good those first 18-20 miles and then the wall hit HARD. I’ve never wanted to give up so much. But I kept thinking of all of YOU, who have called out God’s potential in me. Who have never lost hope. Who see the light even when the dark still covers my eyes. The days when I could hardly run 3 miles because of anemia and a depleted body, you were still there. God was still there.

As I’m sitting here reflecting on these last 4 years and this last year of trying to qualify for the OLYMPIC TRIALS, tears are welling up in my eyes. I shouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be here without all the people in my life. From that first call from Billy asking, “What’s next?” I thought the 2024 Olympic Trials were a good goal and now my coach, who is the fastest American distance runner, is telling me “this is just the beginning.” I feel beyond blessed. Not just because I did something so incredible and challenging, but I had A TEAM, the BEST FREAKING TEAM in the world to have behind me. Depression and anxiety have NO power over me. Friends, they have NO power over you. GOD HAS WON THAT BATTLE. It is FINISHED. Let’s rejoice in that. And let’s keep taking one step forward, even when things get tough and we want to give up. Let’s grab our hands and pull each other forward one step at a time. Because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is HOPE!!!!! There is ALWAY HOPE!!

Thank YOU all for being part of my team. Know I am there on yours. This life is nothing without our tribe. People make this life worth living and God has given us so many good people and a specific reason to live on this earth. He is with us and holding us all in his hands. So hold fast. He’s got this.

Jo ButlerComment