So I have been thinking about this blog post for about two months now and this last race pushed me over the edge to finally be able to articulate in some form what I have wanted to say. Most of you know that I think ultra-running parallels life in many interesting ways. One of the ways is the unexpected blow up. Just reading what I just wrote possibly brought up your own sacred times in life where you experienced a “blow up”. Not of temper, not of fire, but of life itself and the dreams that are contained within it. Times in your life that forced a renegotiation of your goals or path. We have all experienced this in some form or another. But what we do with these times is what counts the most. Avoiding times like these at all costs will not permit you to totally avoid them. We can plan, we can hope, we can pray, but these times occur regardless. It is possible to minimize the damage they can cause or possibly their frequency but one thing is for sure; they will happen. And this is ok. So I am going to write out one of these the best way I know how because I think you’ll like it and I just need to do it so here it goes. Picture your own life as I describe the situation in running form.
Ahhhhhhh……….my goal is ahead and I have worked so long and hard and dreamed for so long about it. I can taste it. I can almost experience my dream in my mind just pondering on the attainment of the goal. THAT place is so happy. I know it will be amazing to get there and the sense of peace I will have knowing that I got my dream. The journey has been long to get to the starting line but I am here. I start my race with such joy and comfort knowing what my future hours hold for me. Running in the breeze thinking how blessed I am to be able to be taking part in life like this. I meet people along the way that improve my experience greatly. I find out more about them as we run together. I know that they are most likely just for a time but at this time it is great to get to know them. As I am running I see the hills before me without fear because I know I can walk if needed or I can slow it down enough to conserve my energies. There is no rush really, I have a long race ahead of me but the excitement must be contained so that I don’t burn out on a good thing. I keep on just getting more excited that my dreams are ahead of my and they will become a reality. Of course there are rough patches during the run. My legs burn and I want to rest. My back is tight and I want to stretch. Many thoughts come during those rough patches that widdle my dream down to barely possible. Then the sun shines in through the trees and my life returns as I eat some more carbs. My mind awakens and I am in “the good” again believing all is possible. Time moves on and on as I run. I’m running, I’m running, I’m running. After a long time of pursuing this dream something happens seemingly out of nowhere. It’s the blow up. The blow up is a devastating crushing blow to my mind and emotions. The dream is shut down and the door feels closed. Survival is my only thought during a blow up. That and giving up completely. I know the end is near enough but the short distance from the present darkness to the light at the end of my great achievement appears to be many more miles than it really is. My thoughts change from delight in life and running to self questioning and sanity. “Was I stupid for trying to achieve and experience great things. Did I bite off more than I can chew. Will I hurt myself doing this. Am I in danger in this dark time” . All the negative thoughts that I was able to conquer regarding my dreams before are now so consuming that I cannot shut them up. Panic sets into me just as powerfully as the joy set in earlier in my journey. Will I be able to get what I want so badly out of this now that attaining my original goal is impossible????? This is where the magic happens in ultra-running AND life. I know I can’t make it to my original goal. I am already running longer than my goal finishing time and I have so far to go still. What am I to do with all of this. If I give up and quit I still have to walk to the finish because there is now way out of the race (life). If I keep going through this blow up it’s going to hurt really bad and I don’t want to hurt that bad anymore. If I just go slower I might as well quit! But then the renegotiating happens. At first I hate it because it feels weak like a cop-out but the courage begins to build again but for a new purpose. The original goal is now very far gone but the endurance and capacity to conquer the blow up now takes precedence. I find myself realizing that the journey could very possibly be more important than the attainment of the original goal. The the experience of this hurt, this “failure”, this “shame” could be worth millions more than crossing the finish line without scars. Although down and out, I forge ahead with a new but painfully real struggle. I must not let the “blow up” finish me. Then it hits me, “OMG………..the goal is not me. I’m me and I don’t have to let the circumstance finish me and in fact I can let it refine me.” My heart melts at the prospect of making it through this blow up as a better man, as a better more knowledgable runner. I find great peace in this painful experience knowing that just making it through to the other side of it means so much to me. And when I cross the finish line where my goal once sat waiting for me to take it, I am thankful for making it at all. I am thankful for that pain and hurt that even though at the time seemed so intense was really only temporary as compared to the impact it will have on my future runs and life.
So I think it is with life too. We all have goals and aspirations and dreams. Sometimes it is as though we are running through life so smoothly but we don’t see that huge cliff that drops off just ahead. That cliff that swallows up so much of what we think we have in us to give. That blow up that takes so much out of us that life seems terribly painful to keep at. So much is possible for us. So much is right there for us to become if we can renegotiate the path and the goals. In a sense I feel like even though we might not get what we originally wanted, we will get the best that is attainable by moving on through the blow up. Things get painful, and slow, and don’t work on our time line but keeping on develops in us such a tremendous power to achieve the most important thing. That is to achieve the depth and reality of the person that we can be.