Life can sometimes become stagnate. The day to day routine can become infectious and it is all too easy to slip into the comfort of our daily actions. We tend to stop pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and as a result our growth as individuals can become stunted. One of the ways we can attempt to counter this stagnation is by facing challenges through running.
Hundreds of runners had arrived at the starting line of the Newport Marathon and nervous excitement filled the air. A loud voice called all marathon runners to the starting line. The gun fired and we were off. The first three miles of the Newport marathon course makes its way from historic lighthouse at Yaquina Bay State Park through the city streets of Newport. This portion of the course was visually stimulating and there was great enthusiasm and interaction from the spectators. I went out with a lead pack of six and we really eased into the race. There were several short ascents and descents in this segment of the race and it was important to keep my heart rate down and simply relax. The weather was near perfect and we enjoyed some great views of the ocean as we went through Nye beach
By mile 4 the lead pack had been reduced to four. We continued our way past the Yaquina Bay Bridge and down through Newport’s Historic Bayfront. We ran on the boardwalk, past shops, restaurants and galleries. We climbed one last hill before heading out along the bay. This is where the race really begins and everyone seemed to fall seamlessly into their strides. I found myself running comfortably in third place.
By mile 6 the course became flat and fairly straight forward. The race could have become quite boring, instead there was always something exciting happening. We passed by a high school band followed by a group of cheerleaders and wrestlers from the local high school. I jumped through a water fountain and gave out many a high five to very enthusiastic and supporting spectators. I’m sure my extra-curricular activities were not ideal for maintaining a high level of running efficiency, but I was really having fun and enjoyed all that this race had to offer.
This out and back course has a turnaround located at mile 15 which makes things interesting. You begin to run back towards the starting line and pass by all of the other marathon runners. Everyone was highly competitive, but there was also a very strong sense of comradery. As I passed by hundreds of runners we constantly exchanged words of encouragement. Nice job, well done, Keep it up. It was very apparent we were all in this together.
I had been running fairly comfortably for most of the race, but by mile 16 I realized I was having to put in some increased effort to maintain my pace. It wasn’t painful, but I could feel something had changed. I knew this point would come, I just didn’t know how soon. The next several miles were much of the same, but by mile 20 it was no longer a slight sensation. It was more like a punch in the face. My legs now felt heavy, I was experiencing increased pain, negative thoughts were trying to creep in and I was really having to work hard to maintain my pace.
This point of severe pain comes in every race I run and it was very clear that time had arrived. It’s easy to be positive when we are comfortable, but our outlook on life and our internal strength is primarily revealed when we are in pain or think we are about to be in pain. The choices we make during this discomfort is incredibly important in finding out who we truly are and this is why we take on these challenges. By running a marathon we are forcing ourselves into a situation that causes pain and discomfort in an effort to accomplish and overcome with grace. In America our daily lives have become so comforting, constantly demand immediate gratification and striving so hard to find ways to make things easier. So much so that we rarely get to encounter challenge. We tend to view pain as a bad thing, as if it is something to be avoided. The reality is that pain and discomfort should be sought out because that is where growth comes from. Ease and comfort only breeds stagnation. It is important to lean into fear, because what we want is usually on the other side of what we are scared of. Much like training for a race, if you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you will eventually adapt and become a better, stronger more fulfilled person.
I reached the final mile of the race and was now giving it everything I had. My body hurt, my breathing was hard and my form was deteriorating. I could see the top of the hill and I told myself to stay positive. I just needed to push hard to the top. I reached the top and was rewarded with a final downhill stretch. My body was relieved to feel gravity begin to relinquish its unrelenting grip and I was filled with a renewed sense of power. I flew down the hill full throttle. I could now see the finish line and the gallery of spectators surrounding it. I chose to really enjoy the moment and ran by the crowd with my hand seeking attention. I was met with a barrage of high fives and cheers as I made my way through the finishing chute. I finished second place in 2:39:23.
After the race I stayed and watched runner after runner pass through the finish line. It was so enjoyable to see the look on the faces of so many runners as they completed their goal. To watch their families fill with a sense of pride in their accomplishment. It was very apparent that although I had finished the race faster than many of the other runners, this was quite beside the point of the event. Despite all of our different body types, different ages and different running paces. We all had something in common. We had all summoned the courage to reject fear and encounter the discomfort and pain that running 26.2 miles would inevitably bring. All of this in an effort to reveal our inner selves and ultimately to grow from the experience. It is so common these days for people to search for the short cut, to identify a life hack, or to attempt to get to the destination without putting in the effort. But, that would be to entirely miss the point. It is not the medal, the finish time or the personal record that is the reward. But, rather the journey itself.