Lesson #2 Never Quit!

Lesson #2 – Don’t stop running.

When all seems lost, and you feel you can’t continue, don’t quit. There is a reward waiting just on the other side of the hill you are climbing. No matter how steep, you can make it.

This last weekend I ran my second race. This one was a particularly tough endurance race in that it was a “Hill” run. Forget the fact that it was less than 3 weeks after I had run the Chicago Marathon (which in itself is not the smartest thing… that is, running 2 races so close together). It was a great opportunity to discover new limits to my abilities, and I felt I was up to it. Besides, it was such a beautiful setting in what is known as Bootleg Canyon. I was surrounded by like minded (translate that to “a bit crazy”) runners, the air was crisp, and there were gorgeous views in every direction. Ah, the deceptive tranquility of Bootleg Canyon.

human_power.jpgThe run was only 16.74 miles (They called it a “Fun Run” because it was less than a Marathon length), but had something on the order of a 2800 foot change in elevation. Lots of ups and downs, some so steep that you were forced to walk going up and brake hard going down, interspersed with piles of rocks so large you couldn’t run over them but were forced to pick your way over, and others you had to put hands on the outcropping and literally climb over. After the first 1/4 mile, it became a single track, which means that it was both difficult to pass and to be passed.

Single Track

You had to ask for permission to pass, or conversely, graciously step off the trail to let others pass. At times as you traversed a hill, there was a steep hillside within inches of your head on the right, and a 15 to 20 foot drop off to your left, all the while running a trail that was only 12 to 18 inches wide.

A narrow path

Do you have a picture of the challenges we faced? If you are a runner, you have felt and know the difference between running a flat road and a rocky hill. It is more than just nuance. There were rocks on the path so large that did not move when we stumbled over them. As the minutes wore on and somewhere past the second hour of continual running, our feet grew heavier (or at least mine did), those rocks in the path seemed to get bigger, and tripping hard became unavoidable. It required constant attention to avoid going down. You had to watch every step you took. Many of the runners fell down. I tripped several times and finally, while attempting to get some powergel out of my fanny pack, I took my eye off the trail just for a second, stumbled on a huge rock, and fell to the ground, skidding and then tumbling into what felt of like a slow motion roll, ending with my head tucked under my body in sort of a roly poly pose. If my kids were there, they would have first laughed and then said (with as much sincerity as they could muster into their voice), while still giggling, “Are you OK?”. I was fortunate to get up without a scratch. The only thing hurt was my pride. Of course I looked around to make sure no one saw my lack of coordination. Other runners were not so fortunate as I, and required stitches.

OK, so it was tough. My point is this, we all encounter hills and valleys in our lives, and sometimes the path we are called to travel is rocky. And sometimes we fall. Confucius said that “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” So, get up one more time than you fall and you are a success. The fact of the matter is this; the end of our challenges may not be around the next turn, or the next day, or even the next year. But eventually there will be an end to the struggles and challenges we are called to face. The point is that we are called to pass through those struggles and challenges, and change, and grow, and not quit. The promise is that we can, and will make it through what ever we are called to endure, and in the end, there is a blessing and our clouds really do have a silver lining.

trail run bootleg canyon

As it turns out, I was up to the challenge. I finished strong (OK, maybe not strong, but I finished) and came in 10th of 21 men who completed the 16.74 miles (the average age was 37). Not bad for an old guy. And the next time I run a hill race, I will be smarter, and stronger, and better prepared for the challenges I face from the hills and valleys in front of me. How do I know this? Because of the hills and valleys that now are behind me. And I know I will enjoy the vistas that lie in front of me all the more. I have learned that even in the valleys, as on the hill tops, there are wonderful views to enjoy. That is just like life!

So, never quit! On the other side of the hill lies the great vista and a wonderful reward.

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2 Responses

  1. You crazy man. The scenery is breath taking (no pun in intended).

  2. I love the subtle, almost deceptive nature of the message. It comes from a purely physical activity, which, as we all know (now), is really a huge spiritual experience. The marathoners will get that it is a multilayered message because they have ‘been’ to a place that few people go. The runners who are not marathoners will be captivated because it lures them to a new place that they have heard about but maybe not quite achieved or experienced.

    The non-runners, while getting tired just reading it, will also see, or at least should see, that lessons in life come from ‘combination’ experiences. Combination experiences are those which require many aspects or facets in our lives. Marriage is a combination experience. Family life, being a member of the church, (for me choral music), and many other things of that nature.

    Marathoning can no more be an isolated-one aspect experience than serving as a missionary. There are just too many areas of self that are involved.

    I am very opinionated when it comes to the author’s voice. I read authors largely because I can hear them on the page and the flow makes sense for me. The way the written word ‘sounds’ is crucial.

    Your blog has an accessibility to it. A ‘matter-of-fact-ness’ that gets past the barriers or filters that we often apply in reading. Almost conversational in tone, which puts the reader at ease. The voice is not self important, but quietly in awe of the magnitude of the topic. But we don’t know that as a reader until after we are on the trail, or running down the road or struggling up the hill. And then there doesn’t seem to be any other choice but to recognize that this is really something substantive and significant.

    Then, we begin to wonder if we could, too. Your encouragement in that direction notwithstanding, there comes that ancient ache that says “if he can do it, so can I.” But not just for marathons. Maybe for work, or relationships, or goals, or fill in the blank…

    Hope, in its quietest and most accessible form.

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