I did it!! Conquering Griffith Park Trail Marathon with Narcolepsy

Photo by Howie Stern

Photo by Howie Stern

On Saturday, March 4, 2017, I took on the Griffith Park Trail Marathon as a person with narcolepsy to raise funds for Project Sleep’s Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarship. As I said here, I was nervous and uncertain.

On the morning of the race, I woke up lethargic and stiff, but I showed up. I had fun documenting this entire day via Instagram Story – so I hope you will enjoy this video:

At 7:00 a.m., I stood alongside 90 marathon runners as we took off into the rugged trails of Griffith Park. Within minutes, I was out of breath but just kept moving forward, slowly. There were beautiful moments like standing above the HOLLYWOOD sign around mile 10 and being surprised at the 14.5 mile mark when I was greeted by my boss, Jenny who came to support me!

IMG_3764And then there was the RATTLE SNAKE around mile 17, just chillin’ like a villain, coiled up on the trail…

Thankfully, a hiker warned me before I saw the rattler. If I had been surprised, this may have caused cataplexy, as I do tend to have strong cataplexy triggers to surprise and interacting with animals, even bugs!

I didn’t feel cataplexy but definitely woozy just cause I am NOT a fan of snakes, nevermind poisonous ones. Luckily, the trail was wide at this spot, and about five other people were trying to pass by the snake at the same time as me, so we sort of supported each other through it, crossing one-by-one, as far to the right as possible, about 6-8 feet away from the rattler. I survived!!

Julie Flygare Narcolepsy Griffith Park Trail Marathon 2017

Photo by Howie Stern

In the last 5 miles, the hills were up and down, and my emotions went up and down too.  I thought about my legs supporting me and how lucky and AMAZING this feels because I know what it’s like to not trust my own legs at times, living with cataplexy.

I thought about the amazing narcolepsy community and my friends and family, all who have supported me through generous donations and kind words. I thought of the students who will now receive scholarships because of the funds raised! I visualized smiling superheroes from the NARCOLEPSY: NOT ALONE campaign.

narcolepsy not alone juile flygare griffith park downtown los angeles

I can’t explain how the miles added up, and how after just 5 hours 48 minutes and 55 seconds, I found myself crossing the finish line! I couldn’t believe that I felt fairly good and normal after the race.

finish line julie flygare griffith park trail marathon 2017Once I was home, I showered and made a frozen meal. About two bites into my meal,  sleepiness hit me and I fell asleep for about two hours. When I woke up, I finished my meal and hung out with my neighbors in my courtyard, and my cataplexy was definitely right there with me, slurring my words and pulling on my eyelids when I thought I was funny.

narcolepsy not alone julie flygare runner athlete with narcolepsyHow amazing and strange that in one single day, I could be so strong and “healthy” in a way, and yet also so entirely a “person with narcolepsy” experiencing symptoms of this serious condition. Am I sick or healthy? Can I be both in our society that likes to define and label things and then draw conclusions and boundaries around those entities? I suppose I plan on continuing to be me, an eager explorer of the grey area in between.

Around 8:00 p.m., I crashed for a long night’s sleep. Since then, I’ve been recovering slowly but surely.

This colossal marathon taught me the power of just showing up.  I set a big goal for myself, so big that I really couldn’t fathom doing it, especially when I learned about the 5,676 ft elevation gain of the race. Regardless, I just kept showing up, using whatever to attempt the training runs and the race. I never felt 100% strong or ready, but luckily, that didn’t matter.What mattered was just showing up for one small task at a time – putting one foot in front of the other, and letting the world lift to carry me through to an accomplishment that is truly bigger than myself and my own understanding of my body’s strengths and weaknesses.

Stay tuned for a blog post soon where I’ll share my training schedule and offer practical tips for people with limited “spoons” looking to take on an athletic challenge!

In closing, I’m so grateful for your incredible support! You carried me through this monster challenge these past four months. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to represent people with narcolepsy in this race.

If you haven’t yet, please make a gift to support students with narcolepsy – all donations are tax-deductible. Thank you!


  1. Holly on March 8, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Yahoooo! Amazing to see your determination and shwoing up as you say. You are and continue to be an inspiration!

  2. Laura on March 9, 2017 at 6:45 am

    Well done, Julie! I’m so impressed!!

  3. Gail Pean on March 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Fabulous short film and effort!

  4. Diann Newman on April 27, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Watching your video is pure joy! Bravo on this great accomplishment!!! Lots of love,

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