In the middle of the night, Diane Van D. will leave her house against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She will cut west through the dark canyons with her running shoes and a headlamp, but without a kiwi-sized part of her right temporal lobe.
She used to run away from epileptic seizures. Since brain surgery, she just runs, uninhibited by the drudgery of time and distance, undeterred by an inability to remember exactly where she is going or how to get back.
Diane, 49, had a lobectomy in 1997. She has become one of the world’s great ultra-runners, competing in races of attrition measuring 100 miles or more. She won last year’s Yukon Arctic Ultra 300, a trek against frigid cold, deep snow and loneliness, and was the first woman to complete the 430-mile version this year.
This weekend she will run in the Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colo. It has a total elevation gain of 33,000 feet and crosses the top of 14,048-foot Handies Peak. About 150 people will enter.
About half will not finish the 100 miles within the allotted 48 hours.
For some, it will be the challenge of a lifetime. Diane does several such races every summer. She supplements the calendar with competitions around the world, some in the dead of winter.