Esther White is not afraid to push her body. The endurance athlete/certified massage therapist and personal trainer, however, isn’t one to rest on her laurels or brag about her accomplishments.
White will be the first to tell you, she finds the most joy in helping others achieve their goals. Yet that doesn’t keep her from setting her own. Sometimes things change and goals don’t come to fruition as one may have hoped. This would be exactly how this endurance athlete would find herself taking on an individual challenge of epic proportions.
In May, White, along with a support crew made up of family and friends, ran her own endurance race covering close to 100 miles from her Waterford home to Yosemite. Not one to settle with what might be deemed the norm, she then hiked Half Dome with her crew, logging an event total that exceeded 120 miles over 39 hours.
“It took me 26 hours to do the 93 miles with all the stops,” White said of her personal Central Valley to Yosemite Valley event. “Then it took us 12 hours to hike Half Dome, up and down. We went up and saw the sunrise and came down. So that made my 100 miles … It was actually 120.”
The mastermind behind the event, however, wasn’t White, but a close friend who recognized she was struggling with a past endurance race disappointment.
“I had mentioned it to Carey and he jumped on it,” she said of friend Carey Gregg, noting his interest in being her crew chief and supporter for a future event.
“The 100-mile became something I used to get healthy in every aspect of my life,” she said. “I journaled before going into it. What was going on with me. What I wanted out of it.”
White has been running for 18 years, completing her first full marathon in Los Angeles in 1999. She has had a love for hiking well beyond those 18 years.
“I thought this is good,” she said of the Valley to Valley event she and Gregg planned, “because it got me to commit. I have a commitment problem.”
While the commitment came in January 2016, White did not begin training until March, just two short months before taking on the challenge. The plan would be to leave at sundown Saturday night from her Waterford home and follow a course the two had scouted to the Yosemite Valley, all on foot, with support at varying locations.
As if a 100-mile run to the Yosemite Valley, followed by a Half Dome hike weren’t enough, the athlete did something more; she found a cause for people to support to increase her drive and purpose.
Recognizing the unique opportunity as her friends and family watched her prepare, White contacted Athletes Helping Athletes with interest in a fundraising opportunity. While her hope was for someone local (at minimum California) the Pennsylvania based non-profit paired her with a six-year-old confined to a wheelchair as a result of a car accident.
A Valley to Valley Go Fund Me page was established and the event took on new life. White noted there was little to no doubt she would complete the goal, adding the Go Fund Me served as a reminder during her trek of something bigger than the physical activity.
“I just feel that in life, in general … when you do something for someone else, even though you benefit, it goes so much farther than that,” she said. “Part of becoming whole is about giving, especially unconditionally.
“It’s satisfying on a short term level, but it goes beyond that,” she continued, “especially unconditionally. Whatever you do, has to be motivated on a higher level.”
As a result of the Valley to Valley fundraising, White was able to donate money towards a handcycle, giving the child the ability for active mobility beyond the traditional wheelchair.
“I think that kept me from failing,” she said. “When you commit to something bigger than yourself. That kind of made it different than running the 100 miles.”
Reflecting back on the day and a half of travel time by foot, White also recognized the importance of her family, friends and support crew.
“They were awesome support,” she said of the team that surrounded her through the trek. Providing her with essentials, they also accompanied her through portions of the journey.
“I don’t care who you are, you don’t do it without support,” she explained. “Everybody was in it just to do it and have fun. It was just a different event all together.”
Close to one year after initially agreeing to take on uncharted territory, individually and yet with a group of friends for support, the athlete recognizes the unique offerings it brought to her life.
“Today, I need to take care of today in a loving, joyful, productive way,” she said of her mindset. “That’s really what the 100-miler was all about, staying in the moment and enduring. That’s the beauty of putting that toward someone else, my support … That was the best part for them too.”