"The forecast was rain. I love running in the rain, I love mud. However, that moment spoken of in the article was now inevitable."
The article about mental training caught my eye as I was flipping through my new triathlon magazine. Skimming the bold type, I began to read the final point, "Find Strength Before You Need It."
In short, the article suggested that you decide before hand where you will draw your strength when you're ready to quit. When the moment comes borne of extreme physical and mental exhaustion, and it often does, what thought, image or cue will you use to tell your screaming body and mind that you will not give in?
I pondered this idea and did my best to decide what that thought will be but came up with nothing. As the days drew closer to my first half trail marathon, I checked the weather and pondered the inevitable. The forecast was rain. I love running in the rain, I love mud. However, that moment spoken of in the article was now inevitable. The first few miles, I pondered using the image of my children, the motivation of all the hours spent training and still nothing. At mile 8, I thought of my brother and felt a bit stronger. Having been recently diagnosed with MS, he seemed an obvious source for my motivation, until I realized he would most likely think I was stupid for slugging through the mud and dragging my tired body up thousands of feet in elevation. The thought made me laugh out loud. Why do we race for someone? Would someone with Down's Syndrome even care if their dad ran a marathon with their picture on his back? Would they be inspired if they could understand, or would they think it's just silly? I wasn't raising money for MS and a run in his honor didn't fit, he's not dead. Thirteen miles of trail, is a lot of time to think as it turns out.
As was my fate, the moment came. Mile 11 or so, I took a wrong turn and added another 2 miles to my race. My body was finished, beyond finished, when I realized what I had done. My ankles were falling apart, my mind was screaming in my dizzy head. The road to get back on track was deep with mud and every unsure step sunk deeper into the sludge. The mud clung to my shoes adding extra weight. Earlier, I was feeling so strong. I had my second wind, then had it ripped from me along with my enthusiasm a half mile later. My thoughts drifted to my brother and I finally found my reason to keep going. I kept going because he doesn't have the option of quitting. Because when his body is tired and reeling with pain, and his mind is screaming to make it stop, he can't. He can't change or negotiate his detour and he's determined to make it work- to make it his new path. It's not the path he chose but he's courageously claimed it as his own. Perhaps in some minute way, I hoped that I might begin to understand what it must feel like to be him; the feeling of acceptance mixed with an insatiable desire to fight. Dipping my fingers in the mud I swiped war paint across my cheeks and accelerated. My finish was less than impressive outwardly, inward it was a triumph that has made me mentally stronger.
My conclusion was simple. We race for others, because they can't. They don't have the choice and we do. Because when everyday life feels unfair and our mind is screaming for us to give up, we will remember that we've been there before and found strength beyond our own understanding provided at times by our loved ones and their unbreakable spirit. In actuality I suppose, we don't do it FOR them, we find strength BECAUSE of them.