With just four months before last year’s Barber Beast on the Bay, Karen Forcht wanted to be out training for the event. Instead, she was in a hospital bed, recovering from major surgery.
But that set back did not keep the 42-year-old Erie resident from realizing her dream of beating the beast. “To this day, I am unable to fully express the feeling that I had crossing that finish line,” said Karen.
Karen describes herself as “not the typical 10-mile obstacle course participant” and said that she had never run more than four miles at one time. But she stared working out with “Team Adrenaline,” an exercise group led by Erie chiropractor Dr. Steve Krauza. Many of her fitness friends had signed up for Krauza’s Krazies, Steve’s Beast on the Bay team, and Karen caught their enthusiasm. The team loves supporting events that help great causes, and Karen knew people who have personally benefitted from services at the Barber National Institute. “That sealed my fate to try the craziest thing I have ever done,” she said.
Karen planned to train hard through the spring and summer leading up to the event. But then, she became ill and underwent a hysterectomy at the end of April.
“That meant any training would have to be put on hold, which really had me worried because I needed all the training time I could get!”
When Karen resumed her exercise program in June, she wasn’t sure what to expect. “It turned out that even though I was WAY behind everyone else, I was still able to complete the workouts.”
Still, Karen wrestled with a voice in her head that told there was no way she could finish. “I mentally committed to finishing half the course, and then gracefully bowing out after our half-way party,” said Karen.
Not wanting to disappoint her teammates, Karen told only a few people about her plan. Even the morning of the event, she thought that she would stop after five miles.
But then, as she began the course, Karen began to believe that she really could finish. First, her husband, Brian, surprised her at the start line and then cheered her along the course. Then, team captain Steve Krauza kept his word and never left her behind. “He never once doubted that I would finish, and though we didn’t say much, his presence was so motivating,” said Karen.
Karen was also encouraged by the number of people—including complete strangers—who shared kind and positive words. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imaged that people would have been so encouraging,” she said.
Exhausted after the ten mile challenge, the only thing that stood between Karen and the finish line was the steep hill on Peninsula Drive leading into Waldameer Park. The entire Krauza’s Krazies team was waiting, and several teammates came back down the hill to help Karen and a few others get to the top. “If you’ve never had 60+ people cheering for you, it is incredible,” said Karen.
But most of all, Karen realized that she was a lot tougher than she thought she was. She said she overcame worrying about what others may be thinking, and took the course at her own pace. She felt an “accomplishment in raising money and awareness for a community resource that has touched so many lives, and in overcoming my self-doubt and displaying mental and physical toughness that I never knew I had.”
As a daily reminder, Karen keeps the finisher’s medal on her desk in the IT department at Erie Insurance. And, she’s already registered for the 2015 event. “I just hope that I can inspire at least one other person to do something great for their community and to do something for themselves that they didn’t think was possible,” said Karen. “If I can do this, anyone can!”