47-year old Tabatha Collins is working on a new Guinness World Record for “Most Ultras Run in One Year by a Female.” In running, an ultra is considered anything over a marathon distance. 50Km is the most common increment above the marathon distance that gets into ultra territory.
Tabatha lost her older brother, Todd, to an alcohol and drug overdose in 2007. She believes alcohol was a way for Todd to self-medicate an undiagnosed bipolar condition. She thinks he could have benefited from better mental health services, and having healthier outlets for dealing with his personal issues. New Year’s Day 2019 would have been his 52nd birthday, thus her objective is to run 52 ultras. There does not appear to be a current official record in this category, so if Tabatha is successful she will also be scoring a first.
“On my journey for completing this goal, it is my hopes to raise funds for Kitsap Mental Health, a local not-for-profit mental and behavioral health center in Bremerton, Washington.”
Tabatha also has another brother named Ty who is diagnosed as developmentally disabled. In his case, Kitsap Mental Health has provided daily support to him for more than twenty years.
“Ty who was a year younger than Todd, idolized him and tried to follow in his footsteps, even when the path wasn’t always a good one. During his teenage years and early twenties, Ty also struggled with a drug and alcohol dependency. In his twenties, he was further diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Prior to receiving services, Ty was taken advantage of by many people in the community and tried to commit suicide twice. The services provided through Kitsap Mental Health has truly saved Ty and allowed him to remain more stable and healthy since his treatment ensued. My mom had to deal with a lot on a daily basis, and Kitsap Mental Health has been a tremendous help for our family.”
“Neither of my brothers were diagnosed with a mental illness during our childhood, although we knew Ty was developmentally disabled. Both of them were always, ALWAYS, in trouble and it was very difficult for my mom to raise them alone. Ty was more of the annoying one for me; he always did things that would embarrass me and I usually didn’t want people to even know we were related.”
“Todd was fun! He was adventurous, had no fear, an amazing story teller, full of life and energy, a hard worker…and he was my protector. He looked out for me and would always brag about my abilities to his friends…whether it was how many Tequila shots I could do when we were teenagers or how hard I worked when I taught kindergarten. I can honestly say that he was more proud of me than anyone else has ever been in my life. He had very little faith in himself, but always had it in me. He had a difficult time with authority. I’m pretty sure he was in the principal’s office on his first day of kindergarten…if not, very shortly afterwards. He ended up in prison at 18-years-old and was in and out of jail/prison from thereon and mostly for dumb reasons. He just could never get himself together. As he got older, the alcohol addiction got worse.”
“On June 25, 2007, he was found in a field in Seattle by a homeless man. He died from an overdose of heroin mixed with a high blood alcohol concentration. Because he had only been out of jail for a few days, he was considered homeless and they did an autopsy without family consent. I was never able to see my brother after he died. To this day, this upsets me.”
“The paths of my two brothers and myself have been different, but yet the same. Running has been a key part of helping me to stay mentally healthy. Long distance running in particular gives me a lot of time to reflect on my brothers’ lives, my own life, as well as others with whom I am close. Currently, rates of depression and anxiety are at record levels. A lot of factors can be a part of this, but study after study have shown the benefits of physical exercise to one’s overall mental health.”
To date, Tabatha has completed 43 ultras. Her most recent was the Cascade Crest 100-miler, her fifth lifetime 100. Despite her long race resume, she says the 100 mile distance is still a frightening. “There are always so many unknowns.”
She’s also kept her legs moving in non-ultras. During the weekend of August 9-11 she ran the Wonderland Trail in 3 days with a group of companions and supporters, and she finished the Boston Marathon in April.
Since she’s working on the record, the ultra races are also her main way of training:
“With all the time it takes to travel and do long runs, I don’t have much time to train in-between the races. I try to take my dog Summit out for some runs each week, and I hit up a Y class here and there. I also consider yard work and working on my rental properties as part of my training, too. I do most of the work myself, and some of it is quite labor intensive.”
Like many folks, Tabatha didn’t consider herself athletic in high school. Prompted by a friend, she started running on her 39th birthday. It took her 9 months to build up to running a 12k, and she progressed to a half marathon, then a marathon (followed by the obligatory pledge of “I’m never gonna to do THAT again”). She eventually did her first ultra and fell in love with running trails. A few years later, in Okinawa, she joined Women on Okinawa Trails Group (WOOT). Tabatha recalls that the leader of the group encouraged the members to face their fears, and that no goal is unreachable. She also progressively added triathlons and a couple of Ironmans to her resume.
The Evergreen Turtle Rockets is her current running family on the Kitsap Peninsula.
I wondered about how Tabatha and her family are doing now.
“My ‘family’ as an adult consists of the family I have made for myself, which are my children and the positive people I choose to surround myself with. I’m learning to release myself from toxic relationships. Being a mother is my number one priority in life. I feel that I have a strong relationship with my children, and they have strong relationships with one another. They know they can tell me anything and I will always be there for them.”
That sentiment is on bold display in this tribute video by her oldest son Tyler:
Follow Tabatha on her “Break the Record. Break the Stigma” Facebook page.