I was trying to find purpose, I guess.
If you are going to run 50 miles, it’s a good idea to try to have a good attitude about it; I mean, like an irrationally good attitude.
As a back-of-the-pack runner, there are times when I have to fight off the moments off self-mutilation and chronic feelings of uselessness. However, today, it was pre-determined that I would not have these problems. Today was about how good life has been to me and the awesome community I belong to. Today was a celebration. Today was going to be a good day, regardless of how crappy it was going to be…if that makes any sense at all.
At about mile 8, I found everything I was looking for. I saw Anthony Lane, an elite runner who would be running the Tunnel Hill 50 miler in half the time it would take me. He saw me, began to smile, broke stride, and asked for a hug. Right there in the middle of his 9minute mile pace, he stopped and embraced me. I knew right then, if I had nothing else to offer, I had a good attitude and whole bunch of hugs. At that moment, I knew, there was a place for me on that trail and there is a place for you too.
There were dozens of fist-bumps, hugs, and pleasantries exchanged. There were hundreds of lies being told regarding how good we were feeling as well as how far there was to go to the next aid station. There were periods of elation and low points and darkness. There were times when new friendships where being formed with new acquaintances on the trail, combined with miles of complete isolation. There were situations where conversation was necessary and moments when silence was wanted. It was life in fast-forward, all of its emotions in one day. There was a place for me there and there is a place for you too.
I got to see Lorrie Williams, the infamous crew-chief. She is known for her readiness to fill bottles, wrap feet, massage legs, fetch food, push electrolytes, provide encouragement, and then kick your ass smooth out of the chair you are occupying before you get too comfortable. I wonder how many steps she takes during an ultra and how many lunges and squats she performs. I would venture to say that she burns an equal amount of calories as most runners during any given race and certainly provides more calories than anyone in the field. Lorrie is an example of what it looks like to find purpose. There is a place for her there and there is a place for you too.
At about mile 30, I saw Matt Heidenreich, another one of the elites, who made time to stop and converse. I asked how he was doing and he said, with a smile the size of Texas, “Man, I feel horrible, my brother.” I knew at that moment that we were both sharing the same experience. Sure, he was experiencing it in half the time, but that was not important. It was the bond that comes through agony and despair. It is the unity that is developed through perseverance and the friendships developed through darkness and pain. There is a place for me there and there is a place for you too.
My life only got worse as I continued my journey. The shuffling became waddling and the waddling became a walk. The walk was so painful and my eyes were so heavy. The night had fallen and there was fear setting in. I felt like I was nodding off and I was afraid I would fall asleep and not finish the race. My mile times were around thirty minutes and the people around me were zombies, but that’s what I came for, this was the fun.
I ran into UltraMelly Maronde who is known for doing ridiculously long events almost every single weekend. She was no stranger to this feeling of pain and isolation. She was able to convince me that I would be ok and assured me that there was a finish line and I would find it eventually. She has confidence, charisma, and a style of her own. She has found her own sense of purpose on the trail. She knows that there is a place for her there and there is a place for you too.
After a long 16 hours on the trail, I slugged my way through the finish line. My family of friends was there to greet me. It was the best part of the day and the reason for continuing. The feeling of triumph mixed with exhaustion is a very sacred thing. I think that too often we try to avoid it, as comfort and security is often the goal.
It is always a nice feeling to finish a challenge, to prove to myself and to others that it can be done. I like to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an elite athlete to try things that are hard. You don’t have to spend your life preparing for something that might result in failure. You have permission to fail now and succeed later if that’s what it takes, but don’t delay the feeling of accomplishment if it could be within reach.
Sign up for the race.
Register for the event.
Fill out the application.
Pick the time and the place.
There is a place for me here and there is a place for you too.
***Not sure how much sense any of this makes. My brain hurts, as does every other part of my body.***
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,