There are a thousand reasons why Brian Williams and Sean Hilsdon didn’t need to bother with putting on this race.
Races are a lot of work with lots of complaints and lots of broken commitments and lots of phone calls and organization and supplies and rentals and flyers and bags and emails and phone calls and lost sleep and time away from family and disrupted social calendars and lost weekends. Brian and Sean have already carved away a nice life with successful careers, beautiful families and a little extra time for themselves.
So why would they waste their time putting on a race for everyone else?
Why would dozens of volunteers spend an entire day filling water bottles, making sandwiches and pushing pickle juice on people who carelessly fling sweat on them and rarely have the wherewithal to muster a simple “Thank you” while wheedle-waddling past them and leaving only body odor behind?
Because it’s not about them.
This race wasn’t about profit or personal gain or notoriety. This was about opportunity- an opportunity for others to accomplish something that they generally would not have the confidence to attempt and the chance to convince themselves of the things that everyone else knows that they already are but they just need to see for themselves.
There is something about suffering in nature that makes living in a concrete and asphalt world a little more bearable. There is something about time spent alone and travel on foot that helps a person better understand their purpose and make sense of why nothing makes sense, and why that’s ok. There is nothing worse than being alive and wishing you were dead, and nothing finer than feeling like you are dying and realizing that is what it takes to feel fully alive and present. We are so lucky to have folks so passionate about what the trail has to offer that they are willing to sacrifice time, effort, money and patience to push us towards the experience.
There are a thousand stories from this weekend’s race; this is only one of them:
As I approached mile11-ish, there was a gentleman who was cursing a hill. He was hitting a wall and things were starting to get tough. As a guy who starts hitting the wall at about mile 3, I am all-too-familiar with the look of the downward spiral.
I asked him his name and he asked me mine. I asked where he lived and he asked where I was from. I asked him what hurt and I bitched about what ailed me. We groveled and slogged and we cursed and we waddled- each step a little bit closer to the goal. We then had the following exchange,
“Do you do a lot of these races?”
“No, this is my first one. My daughter is at St. Jude…” there was a long, heavy and emotional pause, “…I have to convince myself that I can do things that are tough.”
The reasons why Brian and Sean were willing to go through the efforts to organize this race were suddenly perfectly clear.
“I have to convince myself that I can do things that are tough.”
It was a profound and emotional moment. Honestly, I can’t really remember what happened next. I don’t know if I left him or he left me. The only thing I knew for certain was that I was different for having spent that little amount of time with him. I also knew that whatever the outcome of this man’s race, he had already demonstrated his ability to go through things which take more “toughness” than I have ever had to muster.
This weekend I earned my first DNF. Coming in at 9 hours 8 minutes was not quite enough to earn myself the title of “Finisher”. It was, however, enough to remind myself that I can do things that are tough.
I won that race. A lot of people won that race. There are no two people more keenly aware of my victory than Brian Williams and Sean Hilsdon, the same people who awarded me the DNF. They know that no one else can determine what makes me successful. There is no clock and no finish line that can tell me whether or not I put forth my best effort. It was my finest failure and I intend to fail forward while improving on it.
The results of races like this no more make me a better person if I finish first than not finishing at all makes me a monster.
Would I like to have finished within the cutoff?
Do I regret the attempt?
Not even a little bit.
Will I do it again?
Ask me in a month…but I wouldn’t bet against it.
My sincerest appreciation to Brian Williams and Sean Hilsdon for organizing this race and giving so many people the opportunity to prove to themselves that they can do things that are tough. Not only did people get to enjoy the experience, but there was also a sense of community injected into this event that brought about a number of friendships and the bonds that can only be formed through suffering.
This was a first-class, top-notch, bang-up job and I am thrilled to have been a part of it (especially the part where I got to go home and eat pizza on my couch.)
Job well done….you sadistic sons of bitches.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,
Hey Beefcake…. my name is Peter and I remember this moment. The race got the better of me at the 25k/50k split and I couldn’t go any further. I will still say my daughter has given me more strength and motivation than I even felt possible. I will continue each race with this fortitude inside me. Thank you so much your kind words. Hope to see you again on the trails.
I can’t thank you enough. The short time that I spent with you had a profound impact on me and my thoughts. That race got the better of a lot of us but I think we all got better because of that race.
I hope that we cross paths again and all the peace and love to you, your daughter, and the rest of your family.
I’m just now reading this reply Wilson as I was watching your podcast. Great work btw. I will be front and center at st. Jude this year and taking in the whole experience with a different mindset. Your welcome to reach out anytime901-334-6801. I’m going to be partaking in a torturous winter race schedule. So hope maybe I can run along side you again.
Great take on a tough run. My wife ran and just finished a little ahead of you. I have noticed a competitive edge in her I have not seen in the previous 28 years. She was talking Sunday about volunteering for some future runs… your story is spot on!
Hope your well,
The volunteering is really an experience. It’s so awesome that your wife was out there. I love to hear about the competitive changes and self-confidence that can take place when you get into things like this.