Jill Williams started strong, thinking, “Oh, I’ve done this before. But the first stage really threw me for a loop. The heat was so debilitating. I began to think I couldn’t finish. I just fell into a puddle of tears at the finish line that first day.”

At the beginning of the race, she didn’t really know anyone, but very soon she had a new family of tent mates who were all supporting each other. It made a lot of difference.

Williams had to mentally adjust to the difficulty she was facing. The “Long Stage” was daunting. The route through Best Friends is a familiar one to Williams. “I run there all the time. And I knew my family and friends would be there to cheer me on.”

They were ... and her husband Steve even walked beside her for a while as she continued up the path. She said she knew it would be tough going through the Sand Dunes at night. It was.

Once again she felt like quitting. She thought of Dakota, the 12-year-old boy she was running for. “He is fighting so hard and he has no choice. He is in pain all the time, yet he smiles through it all,” Williams said. Thinking of him gave her strength, especially to finish that last mile.

One of the unexpected difficulties is chafing. But with sweat (think salt) and sand rubbing together, it’s like sandpaper on the thighs. She runs through the pain. “Once you start running, everything goes numb and you don’t really notice the pain,“ Williams says.

Several runners agree – you get up in the morning and can hardly walk. You feel horrible. But you go anyway. You do your thing. And doing the best race possible is what is important, even if you are in last place. You’ve given it your all.

Williams finished 11th among the female runners, and 41st overall. She crossed the finish line after 54 hours and 49 minutes and arrived at the finale celebration with her husband, looking as if she’d just had a leisurely week.