While most people spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend watching parades or drinking green beer, Laurie “Lulu” Searles spent it trekking 100 miles through freezing temperatures and snow squalls.
Lulu’s love for sports and the outdoors began when she was just two-years-old, but she only started running ten years ago when her best friend, Sarah Sherman, asked her to train for a race with her. Since then, Lulu has done half and full marathons, 24-hour obstacle races, Obstacle Course World Championships and several 50-mile trail races, but her inspiration to run 100 miles did not come until years later.
On March 27, 2019, Lulu had brain surgery to remove a benign tumor sitting on her cochlear and vestibular nerves, which are responsible for hearing and balance respectively. Doctors removed the tumor but severed the nerves, leaving her completely deaf in her left ear and without balance on her left side. When she woke up from surgery, the room was spinning.
“I got super scared that I wouldn’t be able to do what I love, which is just being outside and doing crazy events,” Lulu said.
While in vestibular therapy, Lulu gave her therapist a list of all the things she wanted to continue to do, from biking and swimming to paddleboarding and running. Running proved to be the most difficult.
“I asked my therapist why are other things easier? And she said because your head’s not bobbing up and down.”
Instead of hanging up her running shoes, Lulu decided to lace them up tighter.
“I started looking for bigger things just to see what I could push myself to do,” Lulu said. That’s when she set her sights on a 100-mile race.
Lulu signed up for the Oil Creek 100 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. She trained with her service dog, Molly. Something Lulu and her team didn’t plan for, though, was running in the dark at the beginning of the race.
“Running in the dark is like another barrier,” Lulu said. “I didn’t really think about it being dark at the start until the start line.”
The race started before sunrise. Less than three miles in, Lulu fell.
“My vision became blurry in my left eye,” she said. “As the race kept going, my vision kept getting worse and worse and worse.”
Lulu kept going despite the blurry vision and was on pace to complete the race, but she missed the cut off at mile 75. After the race, Lulu learned the fall caused a hole behind her retina, which healed itself in time.
Determined to complete 100 miles, Lulu signed up for the Rabid Raccoon 100. This time she got permission to have pacers run with her in the dark, one of whom was her Public Lands Assistant Store Manager Sarah Brown.
“When Lulu called me two weeks before her race and asked me to be a pacer, I had zero hesitation to run six miles with her,” said Sarah. “Then the night before she texted me saying that it would be 11 miles. Again, without hesitation, I said yes! Let’s get you this 100!”