Four years ago, I shared a story of an inspiring couple, Bill and Sally Squier, who run ultra marathons. They both finished the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run that year, and both have attempted it since.
This past weekend, they were back out at Umstead to try again. Neither made it the full 100 miles. Bill stopped at 37.5 miles, and Sally made it to 50. I haven’t had a chance to talk with them, but I know a hot sun took its toll on Sally.
Did I mention they’re both 74 years old? I’ll pause a moment for you to be impressed.
I wanted to write them a post-race letter and share it with you, too, because you may find inspiration in their story. Here’s the letter:
Dear Bill and Sally,
I didn’t get to see as much of you this weekend as a typical Umstead weekend. You stayed true to your word and skipped the pre-race meeting. I’m glad you conserved your energy for race day, though I missed getting to hug you and wish you well beforehand.
Seeing you both round that corner in the woods Saturday morning made my heart leap with joy. Sally, my first picture of you was really fuzzy, a true sign that you mean something to me. It’s hard to focus a camera while bouncing up and down and cheering. Just ask my husband. This phenomenon happens in his race pictures all the time: strangers are in sharp focus, while his photos are dreadful.
I got to see you both three times. Bill, I was already fretting for you when you came by so long after Sally had that third time. But look at your picture. You had a smile for me.
Sally, I could’ve seen you a fourth time if the sun that stopped your race hadn’t also zapped my energy. I simply couldn’t take any more pictures that afternoon, and my husband, recognizing my state better than I did, told me in his firm, aid-station-captain voice: “You should go.” Reluctantly, I did. But not before checking your last time through “our” aid station and making sure I wouldn’t miss you by a matter of minutes. You came through an hour and a half after I left.
You know I’ve never run an ultra (though you’ve made it clear you think I should/could/will some day). So I don’t exactly know the full range of emotions you’re feeling this week. I’m guessing both of you are disappointed, and many of us who consider you family are disappointed with you. Know this—your example and inspiration should outweigh any disappointment you feel. You are amazing. And you should be proud of what you accomplished this past Saturday.
I hope to be like you when I grow up. Not necessarily running ultras, but being as fit as I can. Not letting the number of years I’ve lived on this earth dictate a mindset to stop doing what I love. Smiling even when/if I’m suffering. Bringing joy, laughter, and encouragement to everyone around me.
And who knows, if I ever do run an ultra—now don’t get excited; that’s a really ginormous if—maybe my husband and I will become that (other) couple trying to convince all the runners we know that they could do this crazy thing, too.
Rest up. You deserve it!
With love and admiration,
The local paper ran a story on Bill and Sally right before the race. You can see a video interview with the two of them and read more of their story.