A Determined Galerakis Against the Arizona Trail

Arizona Daily Sun (January 26, 2020) by Anne McGuffey

“Can I go to sleep now?” That’s what Helen Galerakis most wanted, after running the final stretch to the Mexico border.

I was with Helen on that mild afternoon in early November, along with Rob Krar, her ultra-running coach. Bright sunshine and puffy clouds graced the Sonoran high desert landscape. She had just set the record for a Supported Fastest Known Time for females on the 800-mile Arizona Trail: 17 days, 11 hours, 3 minutes.

Helen said, “I expected the finish to feel spectacular somehow.” But when she reached her hand through the barbed wire fence and touched the international border monument, she was characteristically smiling and laughing — and exhausted beyond comprehension.

An ultra runner living in Flagstaff, Helen was looking for her next big challenge last year. She decided that running across her adopted home state and attempting a Fastest Known Time would celebrate the community she found when she made Flagstaff her home several years ago.

Helen began her Arizona Trail adventure on Oct. 17. Not surprisingly, very little went according to plan. A knee injury on day two made running impossible, forcing her to hike for the next seven days. To meet her intended mileage each day, Helen said, “I was hiking in the dark, when I didn’t want to be hiking in the dark. From day one I had to switch the negative thoughts to positive thoughts constantly.”

When the unexplained knee issue had miraculously resolved by day eight, Helen was behind schedule and began running nearly around the clock. Her sleep dwindled to two to four hours a night.

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