During the last few hours of 2020, Alexis Batausa managed to accomplish a feat that many of even the world’s top ultra-marathon runners might never reach.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, with a goal of simply running as many miles in 12 months as his body and mental capacity could tolerate, Batausa laced up his sneakers one more time on Friday, Dec. 31, and ran the 29 extra documented miles he needed to reach an astonishing total of 4,000 miles for the year.
That’s roughly the distance from New York City to Los Angeles and then back to Oklahoma City.
The irony of such a feat, which normally is accomplished only by the most physically fit athlete, was that it was poor physical conditioning a full year earlier that led to Batausa’s achievement.
For myriad reasons, Batausa said, he found himself struggling with his weight at the beginning of 2019.
But by pushing himself by running in events like the Conquer the Wall Challenge, the Hatfield McCoy Marathon, as well as various other events and simply personal day-to-day running, Batausa said he managed, somewhat bizarrely, to achieve a total of 2,020 miles in 2019.
“Of course I was happy with what I accomplished in 2019, and though I really didn’t think anything about it at the end of last year, in retrospect my having gotten 2,020 miles the year before this one we just experienced was really weird,” he said.
After what most competitors would have described as a phenomenal year of running, Batausa seemed prime for 2020.
However a routine health checkup in early January revealed that he had a hyperactive thyroid gland, which again took a toll on his physical and mental well being and seriously threatened his plans to achieve even greater heights in the coming year.
“The hyperactive thyroid caused my metabolism to be extremely speeded up, which in turn was causing my heart rate to be speeded up,” he said. “I had to go on medication to get it under control...I decided I had to help things along by continuing to run.”
Although COVID-19-fraught 2020 would not seem like an ideal year for accomplishing anything positive, much less a year that would afford anyone an opportunity to achieve extraordinariness, Batausa said had it not been for the pandemic and its many ramifications he likely would not have gotten even close to the 4,000 mile mark.
In early March, Batausa was temporarily furloughed from his job as Director of Active Living at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, which he said suddenly but not surprisingly left him with a lot of extra time on his hands to sit around, think and worry.
In contrast, it was the pandemic-responsible furlough that served as the perfect motivation for him to get outdoors where he could both figuratively and literally put some distance between himself and the physical ailment and depression that together indoors were beginning to become an all-consuming force.
By April he had already amassed 300 miles. And after having signed up for and finishing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee in May — an ultra-marathon event — and he managed to total a little over 400 miles over the month, Batausa was well on his way to achieving his year-end total.
“I really think running an average of 11 to 12 miles every day created a hope for me that probably I otherwise wouldn’t have had in a million years,” he said. “I was worried over my health, over losing my job, just over so many of my friends being affected by COVID, and running helped get me through all of it.”
And now that 2020 has finally ended and the feat has been accomplished and registered in the books, in reflection Batausa believes there might have been something else just as important also achieved by his almost incessant running.
“I would also like to think that it will result in motivating all the others who are struggling right now,” he said. “My hope is it might inspire them to realize that even something as life-changing as COVID doesn’t have to be all-controlling … that if you set a goal for yourself and remain positive and determined enough, you can reach it in spite of anything thrown in your path.”