Although running may not be everyone’s favorite form of exercise, to some, it’s more than a way to stay healthy. Ultra-runners take their craft extremely seriously, pushing their bodies and minds beyond their limits as they test their endurance with races anywhere between 30 and 200 miles. An ultra-marathon is daunting in and of itself, with some measuring the difficulty of the race in days it takes to complete, rather than distance. Missy Blake will be completing a 60KM ultra-marathon, known as the Extra Ultra, at the highest altitude on Earth: Mount Everest.
Blake retired from the National Guard in 2015. She was stationed at 179th in Mansfield, Camp Perry, and Red Horse Squadron, and she now lives with PTSD. If she is successful, Blake will become the first veteran with a disability to complete the Extra Ultra marathon. “I’m doing it because mental health is so important to me and to the other two women that I’m running with,” Blake said. “We’ve all had personal experiences that we want to empower women, and we want to empower people who may be struggling with things like PTSD… And that whatever you’re struggling with, in this moment, you can still live an extraordinary life, even if you have mountains to overcome.”
At 44 years old, Blake has only been running marathons for about four years. It took her a while to learn that what she didn’t like about running wasn’t the endurance or the running itself, it was the speed. “I was always the slowest kid,” Blake said of her experiences with running growing up. “I would do anything to get out of running in my military PT tests. I was always the slowest, and as it turns out, I’m not a sprinter.”
After falling in love with half marathons and marathons, Blake began to push herself further and started to tackle ultra-marathons. “I just wanna see how far I can go,” she continued. After visiting the Mount Everest base camp in 2017, and learning of the Extra Ultra marathon, Blake knew immediately that she was destined to run that race. “The light came on and the clouds parted, and the sun shone down, and the angels sang, and I said, ‘I want to do it.’”
It may have taken a few years for the training and circumstances to line up, but finally Blake will be able tackle the Extra Ultra on May 29, 2021. Thankfully, she won’t be alone as two other American women runners will be joining her, both setting out to break their own records. Rachel Belmont is only 24 years old and will be graduating from her nursing program weeks before the race and will be the youngest woman to ever attempt the marathon, and Denise Sauriol will be the oldest American woman to do so.
All three women have been running with altitude training masks in preparation for the marathon, as there is 50 percent less oxygen on the mountain than what we are used to. Training your lungs to power you through an ultra-marathon with half the amount of oxygen is an extreme necessity for anyone hoping to tackle an Everest marathon, but Blake feels that dedication and drive is what separates runners from ultra-runners.
Blake will be dedicating her Everest run to her late daughter, Emily Hope, who passed away just five days after birth, on August 30, 2003. “It’s a fulfillment of a promise that I made to her on our last day together, which was that I would live an extraordinary life with enough happiness and adventures for both of us, so when I see her in Heaven again, she and I will have stories to talk about,” Blake explained.
To join Missy Blake in the fight to destigmatize PTSD and empower those who suffer from the disorder, consider signing this petition.