*Just a heads up, this post is going to get real and is not as light hearted as my normal runner ramblings.
I started this blog because I am truly passionate about trail running, ultra running, and running in general. I want everyone to lace up their shoes and run. Even if it is to the stop sign at the end of the street, around the block, or laps around their school. Our society is so hyper focused on social media and the digital environment that they forget there is a real world only ten feet away. People are losing sight (or have never discovered) who they are and what they can accomplish. People are too focused on the lives of others that they do not know how to properly deal with stress, anxiety, depression, or conflict. I truly believe this is one reason why we are seeing an increase in violence within the U.S.
It is hard for me to talk about, especially in such an open forum, but for years I have battled the effects of depression, anxiety, and aggressive and sometimes unmanageable rage. I had to find an outlet before I hurt someone else or myself. One event in my life almost sent me over the edge and I know I needed to get away from everyone before I exploded. Luckily I was cleaning my barracks room and my running shoes were sitting on my bed right in front of me, as if they new I needed them. I slipped on these painfully inadequate saviors and just started running. By the time I had run myself to the point that my toes were bleeding and I didn't have the energy to walk, much less be mad, I had been running for eight hours. The adventure of trying to find a cab back to base is a whole other story for a more light hearted blog.
Since I am passionate about the benefits of running nothing chaps my pale cheeks more than hearing runners complain about a DNF (Did Not Finish) or down play their performance during a race. Who cares what place, time, or distance you came in. The question you should be asking is, "Did I give it my all?" The only person you are racing against is the version of you that put toes on the starting line. You have zero control on how other runners feel, who the weather or terrain is going to effect them, or who mentally strong they are going to be on that day, at that race. You can control how you feel and how you are going to deal with the challenges ahead of you. You should come across the finish line or end a race a different person than you started.
I hope we all have been to that point in a run or race where your toes are aching so bad that it feels like toothpicks are shoved under your nails. THe arches of your feet feel like you are stepping on red hot nails. Your knees are wrapped with razor wire and clamped into a vice. Every flexion of the hips sends a sharp pain shooting down your legs like an electrical charge. It feels like you have crushed glass and sand paper between your thighs and ass crack. Your back is screaming, head is pounding, mouth is as dry as the Sahara, and all you want to do is lay down right where you are and sleep. This is the point at which you have the opportunity to morph into a newer better you. Your brain is telling you that can't go on, that you don't want to go on, that quitting is the best option. It is so tempting to listen but your heart is telling you to endure, to press on, that you can keep going.
The emotions that are generated at this point are amazing. There is all this anger that starts to build up. Tears begin to swell in your eyes. You are beginning to tremble and your fist begin to clench as if you are trying to hold on to your sanity. Your heart rate is increasing as if you are about to leap off the edge of a waterfall. The shaking increases, your muscles are becoming more and more tense; if you are not in a full blown cry by now than you are close, and the fighting between your brain and heart is getting louder in your head. Your body feels as if any second you are going to explode sending a shockwave across the earth that a nuclear blast. Then finally you can not take it any more and you belt out, "FFFFFFFF*******CCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!" At that moment there is a victor. You either found your limit or found the strength to live with the pain a little longer.
Either decision, to continue or to quit, does not matter. In that moment you fought your most dreaded and fearsome foe, yourself. No one can say that by pushing yourself to such a point where you are teetering on a complete mental breakdown that you are not a different person afterwords. In the end, that is all that matters. So what if you came in 56th, DFL (dead fucking last), first, or DNF'ed. Running is about you, your personal growth, and finding the most importing thing in the world; you! The other runners have their own battles to attend. The volunteers are there to support you and help you during those rough times. Everyone is at the race to celebrate the victories, not just the elite's, but all of the runners. Some of the most crazy, energetic, and lively race finish celebrations I have witnessed were for the runner that finished DFL.
So in closing, no matter how your race goes, own your performance. You grew from experience. Your are a better person then you started. You have learned something new about yourself. Take what you have learned, build upon it, and incorporate it into your life. The stresses and anxiety you face day today can hardly challenge you as emotionally as that point on the trail.
- Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional. Ultra Flunkie
If you are interested in learning more about running ultramarathons or other distance run coaching, please visit www.ultraflunkierunningco.com.