Heather Stephens

California Volée Leader, Beth Peters joined the Volée last April. She spent weeks hemming and hawing about her decision. She was a new runner. So was she really a runner? She flip-flopped back and forth in her head, and then she landed on, why not? That was the chance she took when she first commit to a Cross Fit membership. Starting something always feels daunting at first, but little by little, one win at a time, she’s grown and developed as an athlete. Beth has her sights set on an ultra-marathon. Her story might seem unattainable to someone just starting out, but her advice is simple: “make a small choice, commit, and see where it leads you.” 


“The scales of equilibrium can be found in wilderness.

A feather can tip the balance.

It is time to forgive.

Myself, this wilderness.

I want another chance.

Change is coming.” - Terry Tempest Williams, The Hour of the Land

We are driving across the desert after spending several days balancing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and nursing a major disappointment: just a week earlier, my husband DNF’d his first attempt for 100 miles at Javelina Jundred outside Phoenix. He was disappointed that he couldn’t finish and I was devastated for him, but I had been training to pace him through 40 miles of the race. It would have been my first unofficial ultramarathon, something I snuck in as a way to support his big, crazy dream. So the first thing that went through my mind when he showed up at our tent wasn’t, I’m so sorry, it was, I won’t get to run.


It was unfair of me to pin this dream on top of his and, truly, it was a way of denying to myself that this was a goal I was harboring. Reflecting on the race that afternoon in the desert and the preparation I had done for it, my big, scary goal took shape in front of me. I looked at my husband and told him I wanted to run the Salmon Falls 50K in February. If I was going to do something big and crazy, I needed to do it on my own.

But, I need to back up. An ultramarathon is a crazy goal in itself, but it’s ridiculous for me in particular to go chasing after it. Four year ago I was sitting in an airport, tired of feeling terrible and uncomfortable in my body, and so I made a choice to overhaul my diet with a Whole30 challenge; strict, yes, but only 30 days. I had no expectations, just an overwhelming desire to get control of my health and my body.

It started with one choice.

A feather can tip the balance.

After a month of better eating, we were feeling fantastic, so my husband and I made another small choice: to try CrossFit for a month. Truly, we couldn’t afford more than that and seeing as I was terrified, a month sounded long enough. The first workout had two 200 meter sprints mixed with some body weight movements like pushups. It was awful. I was the last one to finish in a class of ten. On the way home, hardly able to lift my arms, I cried and cried to my husband that I couldn’t go back, that I wasn’t an athlete, there was no way I could do this. He told me we had paid for a month, we were going for a month.


We could have eaten that cost and never gone back, but he led the way back and I chose to follow. I went five days a week for the entire month. The classes got less scary and I got fitter. The progress I made gave me the confidence to try new things in class and to set bigger goals. There was a lot I couldn’t do, but every single day I chose to show up my confidence grew a little bit more and lit a fire in me to pursue getting better at whatever it was I was doing, both inside and outside of the gym. We’re celebrating four years of strength training this week.

Even with all my progress in the gym, there was still one glaring weakness: running. Every time running was in a workout, I whined. My classmates could always count on me to hold up the rear if running was involved. Two years ago, we moved to California and scaled back on gym time to save money. I needed a way to stay fit and running seemed like the simplest option. One afternoon during a spectacular pity party I was throwing myself about hating to run and being terrible at it, I made another choice: stop whining, pick a goal and focus on it. I chose a local half marathon, found a training plan that combined running and walking intervals, and did the work. The last two miles of the half, I thought about calling my husband who was waiting at the finish line to come get me, but my phone was dead, so I trudged on, vowing never to return. But I did return, this time to the trails, where I found my running soul. I can still be counted on to hold up the rear, but my times have gotten faster, and I almost never whine anymore.

When I tell people, especially non runners, that I’m training for an ultramarathon, their eyes go wide, “Why would you? How can you? I could NEVER.” I usually shrug it off, but inside I think, if only you could have seen me when I made that first choice.


I’m not special. Nothing about me makes me more or less likely than you to commit to something and pursue it successfully. One decision during a layover led to another and so on until four years and a lot of work later in the middle of nowhere, I said this big, scary goal aloud that had secretly been living inside me for months, if not years.

There is a very real possibility that I won’t make it under the time limit next month, that I’ll ‘fail’, but it hardly matters anymore. I made a choice to be honest and vulnerable, then to put my head down and do the work. This training cycle tipped the balance towards more faith in myself and my abilities. I can look back at every single ‘feather’ decision that led me here, all relatively small when they were made, and see how they added up to something huge, how that first one changed my whole life.

Make a small choice, commit, and see where it leads you. You may be surprised.

A feather can tip the balance.

- Beth Peters