I’m writing this entry while enroute to run in the Valley of Fire Marathon. This one’s been on my list for several years. It will also be the first new state I’ll have run it since running the Free State Marathon in Kansas about two and a half years ago.
This trip means a bunch to me for a number of reasons. I love visiting new places, and running is a great way to experience this. Second – one of my life’s goals is to someday be a Fifty State Marathoner (only thirty-eight more to go). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m running this race to honor some people I care about – and to advance a cause that matters a great deal to me – eliminating breast cancer.
In recent years, I’ve used running as an avenue for healing, as well as a means of developing both physical and emotional resilience. It is also a powerful source of metaphor. When I run on Saturday, I will face a challenging course – rolling hills in the Mojave Desert – beautiful but difficult. The challenge for me will be to keep to a steady level of effort, so I’ve got enough in reserve to weather a five or six mile climb between mile 14 and 20. And clearly holding myself to this will be important for the final 10k too. Although that’s mostly downhill, it wouldn’t matter if I’m toast by then (as happened to me in some past events). So it’s important to focus on my goals, and to keep to my plan.
My friends living with breast cancer have a much more challenging set of goals to focus on day to day. They have to take care of themselves, both body and soul – through a steeper set of hills than I’ve ever run. A couple of them are parents to younger children – so they’re trying to keep enough of an even keel so the kids don’t become overwhelmed. And then there’s a daunting set of medical choices to navigate at the same time.
Thinking about keeping myself moving through some high desert terrain for several hours seems small in comparison to what they’re doing each day. It sort of puts our everyday challenges in perspective, doesn’t it?
Each time I line up at the start of a long-distance run, there’s a feeling of uncertainty – “am I up to this?”. Feelings like this are totally normal, even when you’ve completed lots of events previously. Little in life is totally certain. But what we try to do is to prepare ourselves to weather challenges – through training, and with a positive attitude. And that’s the best we can do, right?
So – I’ll be thinking about people I know who have survived, or are living with breast cancer when I run on Saturday. I’ll draw strength from the example they’ve set for me.