Two weekends ago, I participated in the Ragnar Michigan race along with my friend Caroline. Ragnar is a 12-person, 200 mile relay race. In my case, the race route started in Muskegon and followed along the Lake Michigan Shoreline to Traverse City.

I’m not going to lie: it was tough.

The toughest part was my third leg, when my calves and hamstrings were already fatigued. This leg was my longest, 6.5 miles. It was also the hilliest. Due to our pace, I’d also be running this leg at about 5 am – in pitch blackness.

I dreaded every moment of this leg.

From the start, it was awful. The course was mismarked, so I ended up running a mile in the opposite direction, adding to my fear of exhaustion. I also got cornered by a male Chatty Cathy of sorts, who admitted to having no sense of direction nor technology to direct him (how he functions in day-to-day life is uncertain).

About 10 minutes later than expected, I reached the hill and started running.

For the first mile or so, I tried to distract myself from the task at hand. I sang Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” and Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” out loud, as if my bad singing would wart off the creatures of the night and make the time go faster. Who knew I could sing every word to these songs?

I had to stop and walk after that. By then, Chatty Man had passed me, so I was left alone, in the dark, with only my headlamp to guide me.

I started crying. It just seemed so overwhelming, I was off my pace, and I didn’t see a way out.

Along the way, someone pulled over and gave me water. I don’t know why they knew I needed help, but I just said thank you.

Eventually I reached the top of the hill, where my van of friends was cheering me on, giving me water, and promising me the rest of the path was flat.

I’m in the midway point of my own personal hill right now. There are lots of days that seem like they will never end. There are lots of moments where I am left alone, where the only way to cope seems ridiculous or distracting.

But sometimes, you get help from an unexpected source. And you can hear cheering in the distance and know you’re on the way back to the top.