Billy is a source of comedic relief and entertainment in MURCA, but he’s also one tough MF with an inspiring story. Please enjoy his story, in his own words, below:
“When I was a child if I was going somewhere, I was running. (Lt Dan…magic legs) I ran all the time. I always wanted to see how fast I could go. I wanted to know if I could out run this thing or that. I remember once I really tried to out run a train the same way Clark Kent did when Christopher Reeves played Superman. I loved running. As I got older my transport was upgraded to a set of wheels. Over time as I got older my running seemed to only happen as a punishment during sports. I learned to hate it. I also found it harder and harder to breath. My coach noticed it once after practice and mentioned that he thought I had asthma. My parents fervently disagreed. They said what I had was called being out of shape. I just needed to run more.
I played football a lot. Loved it. Was told by everyone that I would one day play in the NFL. However, apparently you have to attend school and do your school work to be able to play. Dumb said me. So I didn’t play anymore. Come time for graduation I had few options, stay in BFE Methville or join the Marine Corps. I was told chicks dig guys with teeth so in 1996 off I went to the yellow footprints.
As far as running goes in the Marines it was the same for me. I couldn’t breathe. This wasn’t anything new for me, yet I still didn’t know why. I always just chalked it up as being a poor runner. My unit (FAST) prided itself in its PFT standards. 18:00 3 mile was the minimum. Which eventually I was able to achieve. Yet was still one of the weaker runners in my unit. My next unit was at OCS in Quantico. Running wasn’t as important as it was at FAST. We focused most of our time as dog and ponies demonstrating to officer candidates on how to do navigate the various obstacles and combat courses offered to them. This was more in my wheel house and to me loads more fun, especially since I didn’t have to run as often.
Many years later after leaving our beloved Corps I was embarking on my second date with my would-be wife. Her idea was to go for a little “fun” run with a chick who has been running marathons. That chick was of course was her. Me being the machismo guy agreed as if it were another day enjoying nice glass of chardonnay in my leather booty shorts. Truth be told I hadn’t run since I left the Corps, so I was maybe a little worried.
Long story short, after being asked many times by her if I were ‘ok’, I became slightly irritated with the repeated question. When we had completed the run, she asked me a final time, “are you sure you’re ok, you sounded like you were dying out there.” “No, I was good”. “You were NOT good, you sound like you smoke 2 packs a day”. “I bet you have asthma”. This led to the discovery of my 50% lung capacity and being prescribed all manner of different inhalers. I always like to brag that I achieved an 18:00 3 mile…with one lung. Take that all you gazelles! I started running again when I had a slight bit of a medical scare. Fatty Liver Disease. I know right. I said the same thing. How the hell do I have that? Didn’t make sense at first. I had just retired from playing football in the minors 2 years before. I was in amazing shape. How? Hard living and all that muscle I had migrated down to increase the size of the turtle on my navel. I was developing a nice little dad bod. It was sexy. Also maybe a little deadly.
Anyway, it was suggested that I start running so I signed up for a half marathon. Further than I had ever run. It was a Goliath for me. So I did something I had never done before. Followed the training plan…exactly. I am very much a rebel, do what I want kind of guy. Freelancing any training plan was my norm. I mentioned that because it always sticks out to me when I think back on it. I finished the race. No fanfare. No celebration. Just me hobbling back to my car. Left there and went to work for a 12 hr night shift. This minor accomplishment would be the catalyst in changing my life I continued to run on and off for the next few years running different races. Until a friend asked, “hey there’s this big race that’s called the Bigfoot Ultra that is around Mt. St. Helens, wanna do it?” “Hold my beer.” I said. I don’t always think things through. It’s more fun that way.
My first ultra resulted in an epic DNF. With 40 deg temps, record rain fall that would rival the biblical flood story, and winds exceeding 50 mph, my day ended when I stumbled upon a lady who was obviously hypothermic, and we were 12 miles from the nearest manned aid station. It’s a long story that I have written about, if anyone is interested, I can post it. I always say ultras are like tattoos, once you do one, you really want to do another. I began signing up for races I wasn’t ready for. I didn’t want to sign up for a race I knew I could do. That wasn’t challenging for me. I wanted to see how far I could go. I didn’t care about the medals or the prestige of completing a certain race. I was only curious as to what I could accomplish.
I developed a mindset based on the ancient Greek philosophy Aretè. It’s hard to translate it into English because it is more of a concept, or lifestyle than a word. We translate it as excellence or virtue. The athletes and warriors would train not just their bodies, but also their minds and their spirits. They believed that you couldn’t reach your highest potential if you only train a part of yourself. They sought a mutual quest for excellence. If their opponent wasn’t at their very best, how could they achieve their very best potential? When I choose a race I am looking for something at it’s very best, if you will.
As far as the sport of ultra running goes I haven’t achieved any notoriety and won’t ever. My goal is to never achieve anything outside of whom I wish to become. As someone who learned to hate and fear running, it has become my opponent. The one I am using to reach a greater potential. If you have seen my film, you know that I don’t love running. Yet I have found myself going to it in my darkest hours.
The hardest ultra for me personally was the Bellingham Trail Marathon. It’s set in the town of Bellingham, WA and you traverse through the Chuckanut mountains. It has 4k feet of elevation gain over the course of the run. While not technically an ultra, it did come out to be 28 miles, and by far harder than any 50k and a few 50m I have done. Though the terrain and distance definitely made it challenging, what made it exceedingly harder was the deep state of depression I was in. I nearly DNS’d the race before it ever began.
This is not something I usually talk about. It is hard to discuss due to the sheer stigma that is attached to it. As soon as you mention it, a host of ideals and prejudices fill the awkward void of silence. I have been diagnosed Bi-polar II. Or what some still call manic depression. I hate it. Maybe even fear it a little. It dictates my life. It reflects the way I feel about running. Interestingly enough, when I crash, the one thing I find myself still desiring to do is go for a run. With something I don’t “love” to do, I somehow still found myself desiring to do it when all I could manage to do was sleep.
I have used running as a way to cope. A way to combat the illness. I somehow fought my way to run one of the hardest runs in the state and finished very well. Was even called a beast a couple times (though it may have been because I was much bigger than most of the runners. Was it a fat joke?) Often, I will be lying in bed questioning the meaning of life and an urge to run will push me out the door. My wife reminded me of this the morning of the BTM, that once I got going, I would be glad I was out there. Of course, when I was scrambling a mile up Chinscraper (named for its sheer vertical accent) I was “blessing” the hillside with many F💣’s and 🐂💩 as all I wanted to do was DNF. Interesting how the absence of a nearby aid station will keep you moving.
I don’t think it is necessary to illustrate all that running is and can do for someone. You all know. You have experienced it. Running has changed my life. Changed my mind. Changed my spirit. It has become a tool for me to combat something I didn’t ask for and quite frankly don’t fucking want. It has taught me not to quit. That another step is possible. No matter how much pain we are in. That is more valuable than we can truly comprehend, especially with the disease I struggle with.
I don’t know if I can say that I have a favorite race. They are all significant in the fact that each one grows me. Changes me. The harder it is the more I change. As I mentioned before I am not there for any of the trinkets or extras that the RD’s provide (though some are nice like the whisky). I am simply there to do battle with a demon that kicks my ass far too often. Yet I still choose to venture into and run through this valley of darkness.
I am very grateful to be a part of this group. I appreciate watching everyone on the posts. I get excited when I see someone get into a race. Watching as updates are given on the status of your run. Even enjoying Heather eat more pie than she was capable of. This group has been awesome, and I look forward to what’s ahead.”