Sometimes it’s my slowest races that I am most proud of.
Many hard core runners would shrink back, aghast, at such a statement. By most people’s standards I’m a hard core runner – evidenced by 5 Ironman Triathlons, 48 full marathons and zillions of other races – but my way of thinking, in running and in life, has never reflected the quintessential or conventional thought process of, well, most human beings, let alone the mind set of a super hard core, competitive runner. You can’t put Baby in the corner, and you can’t put Liz in a neat little box. It’s just the way it is.
I sat in the airport in Rochester, MN after completing my 48th marathon – and my 34th state of my 50 States For Sole campaign in the city of Winona earlier that morning. The Rochester airport looked like a library from the 1970’s. There were only a few gates and the entire place was void of travelers other than myself and two other women.
My stomach was bugging me, my eyelids were as heavy as X-Ray aprons, and my left ass cheek had a Charley Horse big enough to accommodate John Wayne himself. The weekend before I had run a marathon in Newport, Oregon and a week or two before that I ran one in Denver. Next week I will be doing a marathon on Friday in Idaho and another one on Sunday in Wyoming. 50 States For Sole is ticking by at an incredible pace. At times I long for home and my family, and my body feels the mileage the way it might if I were, say, hit by a bus – but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This is what I’m meant to do, and the fact that it’s a challenge and it hurts sometimes exemplify the true nature and spirit of not only endurance running, but the core message of what I try and teach my Girls With Sole kids. It’s not always going to be easy, but we can all move forward with perseverance, optimism and resilience- in running and in life.
No one is impervious to a little bit of self-pity now and then, but a Girl With Sole, and an endurance athlete, uses her life experience and wisdom to squash it before it gets big enough to do any real damage to her spirit.
Sleep at the Super 8 the night before the race didn’t come easy. It was as if my dingy surroundings made my family feel even further away and the crappy hotel gave me permission to feel sorry for myself. I woke at 3:45 am to an unwelcome alarm and the loud rapping of rain on my hotel window which could have exacerbated those feelings of self-pity. But I got up, got dressed and went down to the lobby to grab a coffee and what I like to refer to as a cherry poppin’ garbage bag. It’s hard to believe, but in over 20 years of endurance racing I had never worn a garbage bag to stay warm and dry. Well, there’s a first for everything so I grabbed that garbage bag offered by the Super 8 front desk guy, cut a hole in it for my head, and set out into the darkness – reminding myself that this marathon is something that I GET to do, and that I WANT to do. 50 States For Sole is a challenge, but I’ve experienced much worse in my life than running 26.2 miles in the rain.
For the most part, thus far, I feel I have actually embraced the challenges presented by my 50 States goal. I kind of revel in the adventure while simultaneously longing for home and my family each time I leave for a race. It’s a whacky dichotomy of bohemian and homebody all rolled into one. What can I say? I’m a complicated and complex individual who can’t be categorized. Just when you think you can put me into a certain box, I’ll surprise you (and myself) with a vulnerability never seen or an extreme boldness unexpected. I’ve learned over the years that this is me, and that it’s ok – awesome, even. In the past I used to wish that I was a simpler and easier person and inwardly condemned myself for being so different. But now I fully embrace my hippy-earthy-boho-anxious-loud-quiet-brave-nervous-Type A-over-achiever-slacker self-with extroverted and introverted tendencies.
After parking the car at the State Park and waiting for the start to go off, I mustered up my mental toughness and let the rain wash away any residual feelings of self-pity as I ran the first few loops in the dark. With each runner’s stride, it got sloppy and muddy on the trail very quickly yet I couldn’t help smiling and having fun despite myself. The fact remains that I love to run, and overcoming obstacles and running with passion, heart and purpose is what this is all about.
The heavy rain created havoc on the race course causing dangerously slippery conditions. Too many runners were going down too many times, and I even saw one young lady in tears, garnering supportive words of encouragement and hugs from her fellow athletes. In order to keep everyone safe, the race director changed the race course course multiple times while we were running it!
To help keep track, runners picked up a rubber band upon completion of each loop. With the course change, the number of required loops increased to 17 but I was happy to get out of the woods and slick mud and onto the gravel and dirt road with surer footing. Days like this – when adversity is thrown at you and things continuously change- are a great reminder that you have to be resilient and roll with the unexpected. It’s also an amazing reminder that Lacing Up for a Lifetime of Achievement isn’t just a tagline for Girls With Sole. A Girl With Sole digs deep, laces up and can rely on her perseverance, optimism, wisdom, energy, and resilience (POWER) to keep moving forward and achieve her goals on the race course and in life.
It’s my life’s mission to be a living example and to show all the girls who need GWS that the Finish Line isn’t the end — it’s the beginning of what’s possible. We can’t control what happens to us and around us, but as Maya Angelou says- we can control how we respond to it.
It’s in times like this that I’m glad I’m not your average bear and I don’t get too caught up in being brought down by “unfair” or uncomfortable conditions. Simply rolling with what you are given, staying positive, and focusing on the good can be so powerful and can help you see things in a different light.
It’s also quite liberating and empowering to run Garmin free for the pure, unadulterated joy gained from the rhythm of your feet and the movement in your heart and soul.
Happiness and pride shouldn’t only come from the fastest times and swiftest course. Our slowest races can bring the biggest rewards because they were fought for and there is great pride to be had in truly earning that Finish Line Feeling.