Ok, first of all, we runners are a little crazy. No real way to get out of that one.
We suffer for about 22-29 minutes. At the finish line, we are rewarded with a bucket to puke in, some gatorade, and—if things go really well—a free tshirt.
Actually, these are usually the only tangible rewards for the culmination of the 25-70 miles a week we run year round. It is kind of weird. I get that. But…
It is hard to explain what it feels like to race because it always seems overly dramatic in a setting that is removed from the middle miles of the course, but for those inevitable moments when the dull ache of maximum effort turns into desperate, full-body burning, that race is your reality.
The beautiful thing about this sport is that winning is not even close to everything. It is possible to come in dead last—or 3rd or 56th—and not only acquire valuable life lessons, but also still be completely successful in reaching your goals.
It is a really powerful and sometimes terrifying feeling to stand on a line with 300 runners and know that for the next twenty-some minutes, you are entering a raw battle of attrition.
There is literally no way to hide or cheat or get lucky. You are going to hurt, and it is all on you to withstand that pain.
But you are not alone on the course. There are other athletes out there wearing singlets that match your own. These teammates are the men and women with whom you have worked and done battle every day at practice in the ultimate war against the clock.
Seeing them is like plugging yourself into a charger: an external power source that glows softly in front of you and provides just enough strength that you can convince yourself not to give up.
And once you convince yourself not to give up, you have won.
That is the ultimate goal: to break through your perceived physical, spiritual, and emotional ceilings.
We all want to believe that we are brave. Everyone has the capacity for courage, but our sterile, liability-filled world gives us so little opportunity to prove that to ourselves.
Trying to prove something to another person will accomplish very little for your self-esteem; to be able to prove something to yourself, however, will strengthen you immeasurably.
It is our responsibility and our privilege as humans to go out into this world and find that one thing—or those things—that challenge us each day.
I want to challenge each of you to start a journey to discover what you can do that scares you just enough to remind you of the courage that will always burn inside you.
For me, that thing is running. And that is why I run cross country.