Tour D’Spirit to benefit Haiti Medical Missions of Memphis 24 Hour
24 Hour Moving Meditation.
I think that’s an appropriate way to describe what took place on the one-mile loop from 3p.m. on Friday afternoon until 3p.m. Saturday afternoon, at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Memphis, TN.
I have not participated in a 24-hour event before this, and judging by the way I am moving around this morning, it makes perfect sense as to why I have not. I want to to tell you what I took from the race this weekend.
LHRL set up a nice tent, along with every sort of refreshment, from hot soup to boiled potatoes, to melted gummy bears mixed with Mike & Ike candies. We had extra socks and shoes and clothes and blankets. We had candy and sandwiches and chairs and sleeping bags. We had head covers, nipple covers, massagers, and headbands. We had firewood and a fire pit, a lighter and a lantern. We had towels and bug spray, and Bio Freeze and aspirin. We even had a Batman mask for when things got outta hand. Most importantly, we had the most-seasoned of veterans parked right up next to us, so we were basically set for when the unexpected things came up.
The race began promptly at 3p.m. and we were off on our run. The first mile is always difficult, as things need to loosen up. It was a one mile loop, so you are never to far from food or first aid. You are also never far from surrender, which can make things rather difficult. The “race” is not a race, unless you choose to make it as such. For me, it was an experience, a meditation, a gut check of sorts. There were runners, and walkers, and volunteers, and helpers. There were old folks and young kids, competitors and casual walkers.
It was going to be a long day, as my feet started blistering at mile 3. I have never had problems with blisters before, but I would have them on this day, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. I tried changing shoes. I tried changing socks. I doubled up my socks and tightened my shoes. Nothing seemed to be working. I pulled up a chair and I let out the dogs. A selfless friend came to the rescue and she taped me up good. This was a painful beginning, as my feet blistered early, but I never would have made it without this angel’s kind gesture.
As I continued moving forward, I couldn’t help but imagine all of the different reasons these people had for doing this race. I wondered, how many people were running from something, and how many were running towards it? Was there really any difference, and would the distance really help? We all have a story and each one is magnificent, the pain and the suffering helps to bring out that truth. We were just individuals, trying to accomplish what is uncertain, but we all had a purpose and wanted others to succeed.
As I settled into a pace, I came upon a familiar friend. She said,
“tell me, how are you?
“How’s your sweet wife?
“How are the kids?”.
“I want to know all about them.”
It dawned on me, the only time that you truly know that anyone is paying attention to what you are saying, is during a long run. Because anything, I mean anything, is better than thinking about the run.
I had about the best couple of miles just conversing with this particular lady, that I didn’t realize we were running at all. We talked about my wife and her husband, her kids and my kids. We talked about her grandkids and their friends, and everything in between. We discussed our good tendencies, our bad qualities, on what we need to work on. We talked about the areas that our spouses reach down and lift us up. It was really these two miles that encapsulated my love of running. It’s the rawness, the honesty, the acknowledgement of imperfection. If you are running, let’s face it, you have acknowledged imperfection. No perfect person would need to spend 24 hours on a trail. However, the person, who believes them-self to be perfect, would likely feel different if they knew what it felt like, to pull down their guard and just run for a bit. It can be a bit scary at first, to put yourself out there, but it’s refreshing to know that everyone is supporting your cause.
As night began to settle in, my mileage was somewhere in the twenties. My friggin blisters, my gosh damned blisters, were driving me crazy. I have seen people much worse off, so I knew better than to quit. We decided that we would continue until mile 35, then take a nap, as we were all wearing down. Every mile took forever, as I always needed something- more socks, tighter shoes, salt stick, body glide, or some more gummy bears.
We needed a surge, some motivation, a rally. We needed a hero, and we knew just where to find one. Just as we were nearing mile 32 and the clock was striking near 2a.m., we decided it would be a good idea for my buddy to get his Batman mask, just in case it held magic powers. While it didn’t fix foot pain, it didn’t make it worse. The cheap laughs I got from my friends silly behavior, were much needed and helpful, and it helped us meet our goal. We would lay down at 3:30 and arise three hours later, feeling refreshed, at least a little, so we thought.
16 more miles is what I had to accomplish. This would give me the 51miles, which was my goal. I had friends walk with me, run with me, and encourage me throughout. Quitting was an idea, which I only briefly entertained. The idea of stopping came often, but was fleeting. There were too many people around me, achieving great things.
It seemed so ironic to be running around a church property, while feeling so God-less and abandoned. You can find God in one loop and the next loop feel all alone. That’s the reason I do it. I like the swings of emotion. I like feeling so hopeless and then watching God and the universe pull it all together. This allows me to see how much I am truly capable of over-dramatizing things. It’s the peaks and the valleys that are guaranteed to be produced. There are many reasons for doing this, some personal and some shared.
In the end, my goal was met and everyone went home happy, and changed for the better. As always, the end was anti-climatic. There were no parades, no crowd, no ribbons, and no confetti. What was there, were the memories of the last twenty four hours- the triumphs of the spirit. The things witnessed, whose beauty would never be given justice by mere words. What was at the finish was an internal feeling of pride, humility, and accomplishment that was earned and appreciated.
Of all the triumphs that I believe to have witnessed this weekend, there was one man in particular that moved me the most. He was a gentleman appearing to be in his late fifties, early sixties. He is the reason I was successful in reaching my goal. I do not know him or his story, and he certainly does not know me. He started the race at the same time as I did, and he spent equal time moving forward while up on his feet. He scooted, and he straggled, and swung his hips in both directions, stabilizing himself with each step that he took. He was equipped with a headlamp and water that he wore on a vest, as it took him some time to get through the mile. Somewhere close to the eighteen hour mark, he informed me that he had completed over 12 miles. This was a pace of ninety minutes per mile.
You read that correctly.
Ninety minutes per mile.
That is incredible.
That is the reason I do these races.
One foot in front of the other. Ninety minutes.
For somewhere along the lines of 24 hours, give or take.
I’m not sure just exactly what your definition of fortitude is. I don’t know how you classify strength. I have no way of knowing what you consider to be ballsy, brazen, or tough. I don’t know how you quantify backbone, grit, or guts. I cannot decipher where you draw the line between driven and crazy. And I don’t know what makes a journey worthwhile, and what is chasing a pipe dream. I do know this, so far as I’m concerned, when you have the opportunity to watch a grown man forego comfort and convenience, 90 minute mile after 90 minute mile, only to prove to himself whatever he is trying to prove, then you can’t help but experience some degree of spiritual growth. When you see a man twist, bend, heave, and stabilize himself, lap after lap, fully aware that he is five times slower than the slowest runner, it has a tendency to make your blisters hurt less. Watching a human pass the starting line, with the knowledge that he has just invested another hour-and-a- half of his life to a monotonous, lonely, and painful lap, it makes big problems appear manageable. When you see that kind of toughness and determination, it helps you to lower your head and hunker down for a few more laps. It makes you want to be better, to do better, to finish better. These are the kinds of moments that are organic and pure. These are feelings that you can’t experience watching YouTube or searching Facebook, no matter how real they appear to be. These are the things that come with putting yourself out there. Putting yourself out there where it’s uncomfortable, with the people who are uncomfortable, who are willing to do uncomfortable things in order to find some peace and comfort in this life.
Keep puttin it out there.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,