Do you feel like you are running a race that never ends? Do you feel like you keep putting one foot in front of another only to never ever cross the finish line? Astonishingly enough, you are not alone. Many people feel like their daily lives are one marathon sprint after another: endless races stacked one upon another. As soon as one completes, another begins; there is no time for rewards, celebrations, or accolades, let alone a breath, before the starting line is once again behind us. Living a life like this can be exhausting without the right preparation and the right attitude.
Today, one of my friends, Roland Gomez - or RunningRoland - to whom I have dedicated a previous blog, has completed the longest race of his life - 100 miles. This was no automobile race, or even a bike race, where 100 miles is not such a big deal. This was a foot race on the hiking trails of Huntsville State park, run over 27 hours and 38 minutes. The race began on Saturday morning and finished Sunday morning. There was no pause, no rest, no moment of respite, other than the periodic walk breaks; even those were used to refuel the body. Roland ran for more than a day, more than a turn of the Earth, in temperatures ranging from 20 degrees to 60 degrees on a course through the unlit woods. How is that for feeling like a race will never end?
Roland established his goal for this race one year ago, when he first ran a 50 mile race on the same course. That race, up to this point, was his longest foot race, taking just over ten hours. As he finished up last year, the 100 milers were stopping into camp to strap on their headlamps and grab their night gear for the overnight portion of the run. While he relished in his victory, he set the new goal that day - 100 miles.
The next year was devoted to this goal. He planned a series of races during the year to help him develop the mental and physical endurance necessary to extend his willpower through the grueling race. He had ups and downs, finishing some races and not finishing others. He battled injury and fatigue, overcoming his body’s weakness, exploring new running motions to protect his joints and muscles. At one point, he declared everything was on hold as he redeveloped his running style to better suit his intentions.
No matter what, he kept moving forward.
Then came the race. Because of the threat of ice in the area, his lodging plans changed. Instead of sleeping in a bed the night before the race, he slept in a tent at the race site - making sure nothing would prevent him from the opportunity to achieve his goal. The race was grueling. His first facebook update was at 40 miles, his comment - its starting to hurt - said it all. Did he stop? No. The next - mile 60, damn this is getting interesting. Then six hours later - 80 miles! 20 more! gotta run!
Finally, the message arrived that he had finished.
Roland’s journey from finish line to finish line is impressive, not just because of the race itself, but because of the dedication it took to even make it to the start line. The will power to dedicate himself to a goal, keep at it despite disappointment, and never give up is more than impressive - it is awe inspiring. It takes true passion to achieve one’s goals after such a long journey.
How did he do it? Patience, endurance, and humility. Setting a long term goal like this is hard for modern Americans. We live in such a NOW NOW NOW culture, planning for the future is difficult. Keeping our mind focused and free from distraction is necessary to a long term goal; without patience, our chances for achieving a goal so far in the future diminishes. The threat of boredom, complacency, and procrastination waits at our door step. The only way to fight them all is a profound sense of patience.
Holding steadfast to a goal is difficult when your body and your mind are fighting you. Pushing through those low moments, fighting to keep the goal in sight, takes endurance. Running the race itself takes endurance. One foot, then the next - for more than 27 hours.
Finally, humility is necessary. The ego will fight the long term. It wants satisfaction now. It wants to do it on it’s own. It wants no help because it prefers to prove it’s own ability. Accepting help, guidance, and motivation from others keeps the goal alive and real. The goal continues to be important instead of the self. Sometimes you need someone to run next to you and remind you why the pain and fatigue are necessary.
Every race you run, whether it be short or long, can benefit from these three elements. Incorporate them into your plan and your chances for success jump. Without them, you are not doomed to failure, but failure increasingly becomes a possibility. Roland is a prime example of a motivated person who has identified and embodied the necessary elements for success. I don’t doubt that any goal Roland chooses will be achieved simply because of who he is.
100 miles is the proof.