Say hello to your most naked self: Lessons learned over 26.2 miles
Last weekend I ran the 2011 Los Angeles marathon.
There’s really no better way to see what you’re truly made of than running 26.2 miles. Want to test yourself even further? Run those miles in endless driving rain, bone-chilling winds, and a t-shirt and shorts.
For a small glimpse of what we ran through, check out this video I came across on YouTube:
There is no hiding from yourself here. Every self-doubt you knew you had along with all of those you didn’t come screaming to the surface as you question your sanity and your ability to take another step. It hurts like hell, you’re barely coherent, your hands are frozen into a claw, and your legs are screaming at you.
Some might ask (as I did, repeatedly, over the entire 26.2 miles)”Why on earth put yourself through such a thing? Willingly?”
Mid-race, I couldn’t come up with a good reason. But the day after, my amazing friend Laura who’d traveled all the way from Portland to run this race with me in “sunny” California, said: “I always learn something important about myself when I cross the finish line. What did you learn?”
I can do anything. Even in the darkest moments of that day, I never seriously entertained the thought of quitting. I longed desperately for it to be over, I had no idea how I’d take another step, and I wanted to sit and cry at the state we were in, but deep down I knew we would somehow rally and make it to that finish line. Quitting wasn’t an option.
I can’t d o it alone. Community is where it’s at. Whether it’s a dear friend, running along side me, sprinkling me with pep talks and holding my hand (literally) through those last excruciating miles. Or whether it’s the face of a loved one who’s stood out in the rain for hours just to give me a quick strong hug as I pass and a buoyant heart to carry me the next few miles. Or whether it’s the group of incredible runners I trained and fundraised with from Team To End Aids that I knew had my back. Or all of the people who donate to my cause and who were with me in spirit that waterlogged morning. There’s no way I could have achieved this feat solo.
Attitude is everything. I struggled a lot on this point. It’s hard to keep it positive when you’re cold, soaked, and miserable. This lesson I learned from Laura, who laughed, told funny stories, and somehow thoroughly enjoyed herself through the whole saga. I soaked up little bits of her attitude by sheer osmosis. So if you find yourself struggling on this point like I did, stick yourself next to someone who’s attitude rocks and it might rub off on you.
Naked food wins again. Nothing, absolutely nothing, tastes better than a big hunk of fresh-cut orange handed to you by a volunteer. No sports gel, drink, block, or chew can replace the boost your body gets from real food. Period.
After we’d thawed and dried, and lay huddled in blankets in front of the fire and a few good movies post-marathon, I swore up and down I’d never, ever do such a foolish and painful thing again.
Now? A few days later? I’m already wondering when I’ll have the next opportunity to dip into that well again, to test my mental and physical mettle and see what new lessons await me at the finish line.
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