At some point, as she was nearing her 90th mile on the high school track — on a run that would span 24 hours — Kate Fletcher started having those old, familiar thoughts.
"I’m not sure I can do this. Maybe I took on too much," she recalls in a video posted to YouTube. "Maybe there really are some things that are too hard."
But those thoughts turned out to be as fleeting as Fletcher’s feet on the hard track beneath her.
After all, the rural Virginia school teacher needed only think of her students — and the hard track of life they faced every day. Many of them hail from homes that struggle to make ends meet every day.
For them, the school where Fletcher taught — Louisa County High School — was the last academic stop. College was just a dream.
"I’m part of that community," Fletcher says in the clip. "And that I’m doing this for them."
Making dreams come true
But dreams, as Fletcher knows all too well, are worth chasing.
Just a few years ago, running just three miles was an impossibly daunting proposition for this English teacher. Fast-forward and she’s running in circles for 24 straight hours.
The track experiment was the first time she had ever set out to run 100 miles. She wanted to show her students that dreams are reached with leaps and breathless bounds.
And along the way, she’s making their college dreams come true.
In 2015, Fletcher founded the Lion Pride Run Scholarship, a fund that aimed to help disadvantaged students go to college.
"I think a lot of these students think they can’t afford college. That’s something for other kids — which is heartbreaking."
Since the scholarship was founded, Fletcher has raised enough funds through her running to send several students to college every year.
Last year, four kids from Louisa County High School received scholarships.
And those kids are coming back from school to help her raise more funds. Like scholarship student Sally says in the video, "I want to be beside her just like she was beside me in high school."
This year, Fletcher has taken her run to the donation circuit, hoping to double the number of scholarship students — and build a lasting legacy for future students.
"It’s just blowing up," says Carrie Hicks, the teacher who organized the GoFundMe campaign. "I get notifications all day long that people are donating to our GoFundMe."
Buoyed by that sense of purpose, and surrounded by her cheering students, Fletcher sailed through the finish line on that track circuit. In all, it amounted to 400 laps. Countless small steps for one woman. One giant leap for a community.
"Knowing that I’m helping them is obviously a huge part of feeling that I’m doing something purposeful and meaningful with my life," she says.