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From Mailboxes To Miles,  My Journey To 26.2. Part 2

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Why the marathon?

From the day that I tackled my first run, each new mailbox representing a new personal record, there has been more and more affirmation with each mile I successfully finished.  I strongly believe that my running has gone hand in hand with my weight loss journey. It represents not only outward exercise but an inward reclaiming of the soul. 

Obesity is a killer. Every day you exist in a morbidly obese state, you die slowly, both outwardly and inwardly. Your existence revolves around what you CAN'T do. I CAN'T fit into that booth, or that  favorite shirt. Every day you feel like you are slowly committing suicide with a fork

The trainer I was working with at the time identified that I liked to run and that I was in it for more than a calorie burn. She suggested that I train for a 5K. I was mortified with fear and self doubt. This is reflected in my journal that I kept at the time..

- Sept 4th, 2009  "She is wanting to get me going on training for a 5K race. I have so many mental blocks to fully buy the idea of doing a 5K. It seems like an impossible task..."

The 5K was my marathon at the time. It was my Mount Everest. But then something happened. I was going BEYOND 5K in my weekly runs. By the time the race came, I was doing run-walks up to 5 miles. Then she suggested the unimaginable... do the 10K instead. You have got to be kidding me? 6.2 miles?? that is a huge leap of faith..... 2 days before the race I told her I was going to do it. Now is the time to face my fears...

My first race in my life was run in the worst conditions possible. Thanksgiving day 2009 was awful. Our course took us down to the shore of Lake Superior in Marquette, MI. It was snowing, sleeting and off the lake, it was sleeting sideways. To make a long story short, I was dead last, frozen, the sweat jacket I wore had a layer of ice across the front from the sideways sleet, and my shoes were filled with frozen slush. To make matters worse, everyone had left the race after they got their ribbon, almost no one was left at the finish line. Just my trainer, my family, and a couple of race volunteers who were probably wishing they were somewhere else. My wife found a ribbon on the ground that someone discarded. There wasn't any left to pass out. My award was someone else's cast off.

Like 6th grade gym class mentioned before in part 1, I had every reason to never do another race again but something happened. I was oblivious to all of the bad that transpired. All I could do was bask in the afterglow of a battle that was won. That cast off ribbon became the symbol of having the courage to begin and the will to finish. I carried that ribbon in my pocket for days. I would stick my hand in there and feel that ribbon, drawing strength from the memory that I have what it takes and relive that courage all over again.

Running is a vehicle of transition for me, a rite of passage. With each pound lost and every race finished, I leave the old defeated Robert behind. Every culture has its rite of passage where the young child overcomes some sort of adversity and through that act becomes a man.  Every rite of passage follows two basic steps. A separation from the old life and all that was previously known and then a re-incorporation back into society with a new status.  Although I was 38 years old at the time, something was missing. Being as heavy as I was does not lend itself to promoting the confidence necessary to function well in life. I was a slave to obesity.

I had lived on my knees for so long, I had never known what it was to stand upright, to fight, to draw the sword in the face of challenge rather than running away because confrontation would only prove how weak I was.

Why the Marathon? because the marathon is the fire that separates the dreamers from the doers and knowing that I had what it took to do it will be with me forever. Because 26.2 miles is IMPOSSIBLE for the average person, in fact, you will turn your back on all that was average in your world and reach for the extraordinary. You must train and prepare. You must overcome adversity. You must want it with all your heart or it will never happen. That is why there is only a small percentage of the population that ever do one. To the uninitiated, 26.2 miles is insanity. To someone who crosses the line, it is glory unparalleled.  To those who have been there, no explanation is necessary. To those who think you are crazy, no explanation will suffice.

With endurance sports, there are no glass ceilings, no limits except your own. Your success truly is yours and is not based on who you know. The marathon is no respecter of persons. You either did the work or you did not. You can't BS your way to the finish line. It was my trial by fire and I passed.

It was my Mount Everest. Edmond HIllary, an explorer that conquered Everest stated that "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves"

Why did man desire to land on the moon? What is it in man, that, in spite of our love of ease, feels unfulfilled unless challenged with something huge? It keeps us reaching, trying, getting back up when we face plant.

The day I crossed the line is the day the old Robert was left behind for good with all the doubts, fears and weakness. That is a day that I will never forget.
My running has been a slow, natural progression. With each race finished, I gained a little more confidence that I am actually capable of doing what I previously believed was impossible.

The Marathon was my "Valley Of Elah" as mentioned in the Biblical battle between David and Goliath in I Samuel 17.  At some point in a persons journey, they will stand in the Valley of Elah. My Goliath? Self doubt and fear of failure. The day I ran the marathon is the day I stood my ground. The day I looked at the enemy of my heart with my weapon in hand. The day I dug deep and found that I am a warrior. I would rather live for a moment at the finish line as a champion than a lifetime in mediocrity. 

I deserve better and so do you. 

Previous Blog In Series..

Part 1
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