FORT MILL, SC (WIS) - A South Carolina ultramarathoner is taking on her biggest challenge yet.
With just her thoughts and 10 toes, Tracy Gariepy of Fort Mill, South Carolina, takes on distances that would make even some of the bravest athletes cringe. She does that with very little support for her feet, running ultramarathons in shoes meant to mimic barefoot running. She says it's the only way she can run comfortably. She attributes her ability to run long distances now to her minimal footwear.
But running for her hasn't always been comfortable. Case in point, her first marathon.
"Miserable. Miserable. I think it took me about five hours. I think I called my girlfriend at mile 20 and said 'I hate this come out and walk the rest of the way with me," said Gariepy.
But that struggle lit a fire inside her. Since that first race, she's run multiple ultra marathons - even winning a 24-hour race.
"It's hard work and if it's something that you want to accomplish and you want to achieve then it's worth the work that you put into it. And you start to see the fruits of your labor and then the excitement starts to build and the momentum starts to build."
That momentum is bringing her to her biggest challenge yet. But, this one isn't just for her.
This challenge, a 3300-mile solo run, spanning 10 days, is to benefit Girls on the Run International. GOTR is a non-profit organization that teaches girls to be healthy, confident and empowered through running.
"Because of my line of work I travel quite a bit so I'm not able to coach for them regularly and be involved on a daily or a weekly basis. This is something I can do to still have an impact on them."
Gariepy said she met coaches and GOTR leaders at a conference, and it made a huge impact on her life. She wishes it was something that was around when she was growing up because she's seen the impact it can make on young women.
"Some of them want to be runners when they grow up. Some of them are girls that really just want to be included and feel like a part of the team and part of a group. And to see the smiles on their faces, to see how they feel when they've reached an accomplishment, it's so inspiring."
While she hopes to leave a strong financial impact on the organization, Gariepy hopes that girls who hear about the challenge she's tackling, are inspired to tackle a few of their own.
"It's worth the work. And I think that's a great message to learn when you're young. That something worth doing could be hard and it's something that's going to take time. And it is something that's going to take being comfortably uncomfortable but it's worth it in the end. That's true of the program that these girls are going through and it's true of every run that I do. It's worth the work."
If you'd like to help sponsor Gariepy's run, click here for her fundraising site through GOTR.