Exhausted, tired and barely moving, I called again into the blackness of the night, “how much further do we have?”
Somewhere in the darkness my pacer’s voice responded, “I don’t know. Another mile or two to the next aid station?”
A deep sigh escaped from my mouth, a puff of steam rose into the cold atmosphere, reflecting off my headlamp’s illumination of the forest floor.
I had run for close to 15 hours and the sun had gone down over an hour ago. My legs had already climbed over 13,000 feet over mountain passes and valleys. In addition to the fire which took over where my quads used to be, the mental and physical exhaustion was getting the best of me.
“Just get to the next aid station,” became my mantra.
What felt like a year later, we arrived at a small table set up in the middle of nowhere that was set up for a feast. Hot ramen soup, potatoes, watermelon, candy and soda were set out buffet style just for us. We hadn’t seen another runner for at least an hour and I was happy to see some new faces.
“What can we get you? You’re doing great!” the aid station volunteers graciously said. “Just keep going, you are almost there!”
Grabbing some warm potatoes, my pacer and I were off again with one more aid station between me and the 65-mile finish line.
These moments are the moments that define us.
I find it somewhat ironic that I will go out and punish myself in an ultramarathon or endurance event, but when life gets tough, I feel like quitting or taking an easier road down.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. One friend of mine told me that in life we don’t necessarily ‘choose’ to run a tough course the same way we do in a race. The difficulty often comes in the form of other people, a surprise situation, or things outside our control. Nevertheless, the difficulty inevitably comes and we must keep moving forward.
I pushed back a little on this idea that we don’t have any control over life. Just like racing, even though the pain is real, we can respond negatively and quit or we can focus on shorter goals and keep moving. The point here is that we have a choice in how we RESPOND and what we FOCUS ON.
I’m currently in a season of life where I feel like I’m just focused on the next aid station, but I’m embracing that idea. How can I grow through this segment of my life journey? How can I embrace both the beauty and the hardship around me and make some forward progress. While the night sky may be dark, headlamps in the trees create a whole new landscape that many never get to see. Fears can equally give birth to excitement and thrill. We need to decide where to spend our mental energy.
The one thing I’m sure of through all this is that I WILL make a positive impact in my community and give birth to positivity as often as possible. One aid station at a time I’ll move closer to that finish line.