Your Worst, Best Day?
Many people set small goals in life because they are easy and don’t require overcome many obstacles. Some people set BIG goals in life because they thrive on the challenges that arise on the way to achieving them. And then there are some people, like me, who seem to set BIG goals in life because they are naïve and don’t really comprehend what they will have to overcome to get there.
A few weeks ago, I had to take a trip to a small little town called Grove City in Pennsylvania. We were staying along the highway about 6 miles from town in a very rural place! For my 50-Mile training plan I needed to complete back to back 18 mile training runs the first weekend I was there and another 20 mile run the following Saturday morning before my return flight home.
I had not expected that during this trip the northeast would be hit with one large snowstorm after another the entire time I was there. It snowed and froze the roads with ice the entire first week and I was uncertain how I was going to be able to train over the weekend. However, as Friday approached I was excited! The snow had cleared from shoulder of the roads (rural towns don’t have sidewalks) and Friday evening after class, I set out on my long run. It appeared that it would be a nice but cold evening with little to light snow. I felt that luck was on my side since I did not have to face a four hour fun on the hotel treadmill.
I started out along the clear shoulder of the county road happy as could be! The countryside was covered in snow and it was cold but clear. At the first turnaround at about mile four a light snow started to fall which made the experience even more surreal. I was running along the road, Yanni playing on my iPod, and it seemed a blessed experience. I passed the hotel again at about mile 8 going the opposite direction as the snow continued to fall harder and had accumulated to about half an inch. I crossed the highway and started the long 7 mile stretch into Grove City.
As the sun settled quickly, it brought a dip in temperature and a threefold increase in snow. I was starting to get a little concerned but was determined to finish my run. I slowly started to abandon running on the shoulder of the road because the snow was accumulating and when no cars were coming I could run on the road in the car tracks. When the cars came, I would move back onto the shoulder of the road where the show was getting deeper and deeper. In some places, the shoulder of road was so narrow from the snow drifts I would have to run in snow that was six to 10 inches deep until the road was clear again. My shoes were quickly filled with snow but I was determined to finish the run.
By the time I reached Grove City and turned around with my last 7 miles (I had misjudged the distance and ran farther than I meant to), it was snowing so bad I could only see the road through the car headlights. And, I had not realized it, but I was going to be running back towards the hotel into a 10-20 mile per hour headwind.
By this time, my feet and hands were as frozen as my water bottles and Powerbars. I was a seriously chilled running back into the wind and was starting to shiver as my core temperature dropped. I had nowhere to go but forward. By now the roads were covered also and there was no clear path to run. As I slogged back through three to four inches of snow it was like running on loose sand with two little kids holding onto the back of your shirt to keep you from moving forward. The snowplow passed me twice on the road and I had to step off of the road into a snow bank above my knees, turn my body away from the street, and cover my face as it blasted me with snow from head to knees.
After that second snow plow, I thought to myself, “this sucks and I really, really just want to quit.” The problem was, I was stuck in a really bad place. How could I be so stupid as to put myself in this dangerous predicament, running into oncoming traffic during a serious snow storm, along a road with little or no visability, no way to get out of the path of traffic, with frozen food and water in the middle of rural Pennsylvania?
During those last three to four miles I really had to dig down deep into my reserves and tap into that “hardcore” self that got me through some of my infantry training days. Mentally, emotionally and physically, I was not in a good place.
I had many thoughts during those last miles back and they mostly revolved around, “this is the worst day of my life, why am I doing this race anyway, you should just quit.” I was really struggling to find a meaning for why I had put myself in this situation. Why was I training to run a 50 –mile race to begin with? If I had known that I would be in this place when I had first set the goal, I may not have set the goal! How naïve could I be?
As I stepped back through the doors of the lobby at about 11pm that night, I knew two things for certain. First, those moments were some of the worst moments of my life. Second, “If in the worst moments of my life, I am in the pursuit of what I believe is a worthy goal, could the worst moments of my life really be the best moments of my life?” After all was said and done, my answer was a simple, “Yes.”
Do I want to repeat those moments? No thank you, if I never get back to Grove City in the winter it will be too soon. However, as I ran 18 miles on the treadmill the next day, I was never more thankful for the experience. I felt that way again on the following Friday as I ran on another treadmill into the early morning hours to complete my other training run.
As I head into the trail marathon this weekend and prepare for the BIG race on the 27th, the training run I will remember the most will be the one on that county road, in the middle of a PA snowstorm. I imagine at Mile 30, I will recall Yanni on my iPod reminding me to tap into my emotional reserves. At Mile 35, I will remember my frozen water bottles and Powerbars as I pass another aid station and can nourish myself. At Mile 40, I will remember my frozen self dodging snowplows and oncoming traffic in deep snow drifts up to my knees. At Mile 45, I will remember all too vividly wanting nothing more in life than to give up and quit, but I will continue to run. And at Mile 50, I will remember that when I push through my limitations, on the other side, I come one step closer to knowing a deeper part of my true self. That true self that knows when I am pushed to my limits, I will never give up. And, as I cross that line, I am going to keep on going for another loop, to see just how far to 100 miles I can actually go.
In life, there is only yourself to discover, deeper parts of yourself to find, and unless you dream bigger dreams and push yourself, you will never know how much more you are than you think you are. Your worst day in this lifetime as long as it is spent in the pursuit of a worthy goal, could actually be one of the best and most meaningful days of your life.
There was once a guy who did not know himself so he just sat. One day he decided to get up and found himself walking. As he discovered new things in life, one day he found himself while running.
In 2010, Dream Big and Be BOLD!
To your continued success,
James M Murphy
If you want a BIG life you have to Dream BIG and a FULILLING LIFE comes from enjoying the small moments along the way!