Smiling Through The Suffering.
Great! Here I am again. Bent over, sweat stinging my eyes, legs burning, stomach churning, walking like I have just stepped out of a bar after three or four too many. Except I haven't walked out of a bar. I am at an aid station 55 km into an 80 km ultra-marathon. And the next 25 km are going to hurt! I used to have another blog called Running for Pearl, where I wrote race reports and learned about blogging, writing and running. It was fun and I often go back to read posts and look at all the times I could have given up, but didn't. I was talking to a woman today and she was asking me about the Eco Trail de Paris which I completed this past Saturday. She asked me why I do it. Honestly, there is no real answer other than the fact that I can. I mean you can boil it down to ego, endorphins, trading addictions, statistics, soul searching, or whatever label you want. But I do it because I can. The rest of it is a journey. What kind of journey? Well that depends on the race. So as I am talking to this lady, she asks me and my response was this: it makes for a great story and really tests one's character. For the story part, I told her about a section of the book that deals with my first 100 km race and how I was so close to quitting at the beginning of the last lap. I had 16 km to go and my body was fried! I ended up finishing the race and it changed my life. Can you imagine a story that goes like this,
“As I battled forth against the elements with only one lap to go and the end so close to my grasp, every sinew of my body screamed at me to quit. So I did. I gave up and went and had a nice hot shower.”
Come on! That's not what makes a good story. There has to be resilience, pain, and resolution. The character testing is part of the story. It's what makes us who we are. Strong and perseverant people attract the same. If you lie down and complain about the hand you've been dealt, then very few will stick around to hear you whinge. However, if you have a steely resolve to keep your head down and just churn through the difficulties, then you'll get to the finish line, maybe a little battered, but your character will be unbreakable. And you'll most likely have a crowd cheering for you when you get there.
Life is a lot like those ultras where you have to suck it up and keep going because if you don't do it, then it ain't gonna get done. Sometimes there is no fight another day. Pain is a temporary thing, but it passes. There was a point on Saturday as I was climbing up the last main ascent of the course and I was suffering so bad that it made me smile. I thought of hangovers, personal failures, departed loved ones, and realised what a blessing it is to be able to do what I do, that I was out there living 100% and giving life all I could. The pain of that race is still in my legs, but the emotion and an inner sense of resilience will stay with me for the rest of my life.