U.S. Olympic runner Ryan Hall once said "I think some of the most celebrated moments in human achievement should be those times when everything is going against a person and they are down in the dumps but they simply choose to get up. That's real greatness!"
To be honest, recently I've had a few downfalls. I broke up with my girlfriend of over a year, and best friend of three years. My mind is full of ups and downs, the demons of heartbreak. The one consistent I have is the road.
Up until a month ago, my longest run had been somewhere around three miles. I ran for no reason but to exercise, I always had a point A and a point B that were close enough to just keep me in shape, but never that much of a struggle. Wake up at 8 a.m., run from my apartment to Central Park, run around the reservoir once, run home, shower and jump back in bed with the girlfriend. Well, what happens when you no longer have a point B? What happens when you have nowhere to be, nobody you'd rather hang out with but yourself?
Last night I left work, put on my running shoes, started my Garmin running watch and hit the pavement. One hour, 51 minutes and 49 seconds later I finished my first half-marathon, alone by myself in Central Park with nothing my but thoughts.
Forrest Gump said, "I used to run to get to where I was going, but I never thought it would take me anywhere." There is much truth, and fault, to this. If you always run from point A to point B and worry about what you have to do once you get to point B (as I used to worry about getting home to my then-girlfriend), you may end up keeping a few pounds off your waist, but you'll never truly get anywhere.
Last night, running without a clear destination, my mind was able to go places it never would have been able to reach before. I remember an old Adidas ad that said, "A run begins the moment you forget you are running." This is true.
Miles 1 to 4, all I could think about was that I was running and how strenuous it was.
Miles 4 and 5 I thought about my ex, I shed a few tears, my heart felt like collapsing.
And then it hit me, the euphoric feeling where your heart beats a little bit faster, your hands twitch, your legs feel a little bit lighter... The runner's high hits.
Miles 5 to 13.1, I thought about nothing and everything. My mind wandered to and from, to what I'm not sure. It was perhaps the most peaceful experience I have ever had.
Ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes writes, "For me, as for so many runners, there really are no finish lines. Runs end; running doesn't." So next time you set out to run I urge you to not set an endpoint. Don't just run from point A to point B. Don't set a finish line. Set a goal if you must, but don't be afraid to go past it.
Hal Higdon says, "Even when you have gone as far as you can, and everything hurts, and you are staring at the specter of self-doubt, you can find a bit more strength deep inside you, if you look closely enough." It's my belief, that in those moments where you push yourself just a little bit harder is when you find a sense of inner peace, and self understanding that trumps all.
This run is just one of many long runs coming up for me. If you would like to donate to my Marathon Fun for the National Stroke Association please do so here.
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