The real purpose of running isn’t to win a
race, it’s to test the limits of the human heart.
For the past six months, I’ve been spending 6-10 hours a week coaching a group of about 35 people, many of whom started out as strangers to one another in November. Together we began with one common goal: train for and complete the Flying Pig Marathon or Half-Marathon the first weekend of May in Cincinnati, OH. We call ourselves Team S.
|This snowy scene defined a lot of our practices this year.|
Some participants started the journey having only taken their first running steps months earlier. Some began with many races under their belt and grand running goals in mind. Some had experienced a taste of racing and wanted to see what happened if they kept the momentum going. A few had just delivered babies weeks earlier or were still getting acquainted with the sleepless routine of having a toddler at home. Others were looking to defy the unfamiliar realm of middle age. Some were managing 50-hour work weeks or caring for ailed parents. Some were planning weddings or taking CPA exams. Some were coming off of surgery where they were told they’d “never run again”, dealing with a heart-condition or nursing injuries of races past. Some had hope. Some had doubt. Some just wanted to run.
But, no matter the distinction of age, experience, or circumstance, each person began willing to take a risk and see what was possible. Each runner was able to put perceived limitations to the side and make it work. Each runner came ready to enter new territory and make use of the next six months of life.
|Evidence of running in the pouring down rain. Beth and Kelley come back to studio s soaked but smiling.|
|Our weekly Tuesday 6AM run–this one when it was -25 degree windchill. Don’t worry, we were layered up, but after 5 miles our eyelashes became popsicles.|
|Hayley and Pam finishing out a 17 miler on one of our nicer training days.|
|Snow, snow and more snow!|
As the hours and miles have passed, although the over-arching physical goals have remained, something else—I would argue even more life-changing–has also begun to emerge. Through repeated footsteps in crunching leaves, tromps in foot after foot of snow, shallow breaths in negative windchill mornings, goosebumps in the dumping ice-cold rain, five-a.m. alarm clocks, shadow-covered sidewalks, Saturdays without sleeping in–something beyond fitness has happened.
Through mile, after beautiful, joyful, painful mile–the power of the human spirit has broken through.
|Spring has arrived! Sixteen days and counting to race day.|
Paralleling the new life of spring and the emergence of sunshine and shorts, we have come back to life and we have done so as new and stronger people. Depth of winter created opportunity for a persistent, powerful spirit to be grown, and soon, to be harvested as we complete of our final miles as a team.
Last week, as one of our finishing steps of preparation, I asked Team S to go through the following mental training activity.
Why do you run? What does it mean to you? What does it do for you? What does it help you do in the rest of your life?
marathon/half-marathon your body will be pushing back and asking you
this very question. Why did I decide to do this? It is important to expect this to happen and know exactly
what your response will be. In tough moments we need to remind
ourselves of the context, of the why, in order to keep moving toward our
The responses I received blew me away. I’d like to share a very inspiring, powerful example with you.
The following was written by Kris Donnelly and shared with her permission. After four months of hard training, Kris found out that her mom was very sick and would need a bone marrow transplant the week the race was to take place.
I will never forget the morning she told me the news. It was chilly but the sun was out. We had gathered in downtown Cincinnati’s riverfront park to run sections of the Flying Pig course for race-day practice. As we began running and chatting as we normally do, Kris turned to me with tears streaming down her face. She said simply, “My mom is sick and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to complete today or this race, but I’m going to try.” Here are her reasons for running…
|Kris pictured here in the orange on the morning she shared the news.|