The past few years I’ve been blessed enough to be allowed the opportunity to volunteer with our local high school boy’s track team. I show up when I can, try to stay out of the way, and offer help where it seems it might be needed. Mostly, I’ve worked with the athletes on visualization and positive mental tenacity.
As I’ve aged I’ve been able to see more and more the positive effects of being an endurance athlete. If I’d known then what I know now about endurance, about myself, and about how life seems to be one practice run after another with higher and higher stakes, I might have approached the process w/ less stress and more courage. When we take away the stress of a time goal and replace it with the goal of pushing ourselves to our capacity to ensure that that capacity continues to increase and strengthen, we begin to feel more empowered and optimistic within ourselves.
This past Saturday night I had a team dinner w/ the track guys prior to a Run Club send off to one of our own who continues to push his own capacity! Andy is climbing Mt. Everest, “Chomolungma,” this May! As we had a light-hearted dinner w/ the guys, I made an attempt to not let the significance of the evening be lost and gave each athlete the letter below.
Tonight, after you leave here, there’s another group of people coming in for a going away party. The person of honor is a professor at UNI who will be climbing the North Face of MT. Everest in May. Andy and his cousin will be the first Iowans to climb the North Face and will also be two of less than 50 total persons to ever do so. Ever. He’s a track guy. He ran track for UNI actually. Two weeks ago Andy finished his first 50 Mile Trail Race. But that’s not even the real story here.
He and his cousin are climbing Everest and raising money for Military Veterans who suffer from PTSD. Andy also leads adventure trips for veterans that help them find normalcy in the adventure of the outdoors. He’s using his own motivation to be better, seek adventure, test himself, and be brave to help others do the same.
You see, eventually running won’t be just about how fast you run or what place you finish. Eventually, running will be about the things you learn from running, not the running itself.
Are you willing to run in the wind and rain and snow and cold? Are you tough enough to go one more mile or one more repeat when you’re in pain, tired, or having a rough day? Can you be happy for the teammate that beats you because he set a pr? Can you deal with having a bad race yourself? Can you be humble in victory? Can you win a race and stay motivated to win another?
The lessons learned in running last a lifetime.
When you go to college and have more studies and tests and assignments on your plate than you think you can handle, can you take a breath and remind yourself that you can succeed? When you make a bad decision and need to right your wrongs, can you admit your wrongs and make things right? When you find “the one” are you brave enough to ask her out or ask her “the question?” And when you’re older and you have a wife or child that’s sick or injured, can you be the one they look to not just for support, but for hope and strength. Can you not only motivate yourself, but help others become motivated?
The answer is YES, to all of these. Running teaches you how to take a breath, remind yourself you got this, and succeed. Remember to enjoy the struggle. The struggle is how you get stronger, braver, better. Eventually, those lessons will help you succeed for years to come.