In late June 2005, I was driving home from my first Sprint triathlon when I had a profound lesson in
humility. One may have expected that the lesson came during the race: when I freaked out in the swim or
when my gingerly effort to run after the bike took the form of a hobble. Or my middle of the pack finish.
No, driving home while sitting in my post-race funky smell and glory while sipping Gatorade, I saw up
ahead an Amish family riding their bikes on the wide shoulder. These were old bikes, maybe a Huffy or
a Schwinn was in the bunch but I did not think so. They were riding in long dresses or long pants with no
helmets, moving with purpose up a hill that promised no clear ending. I had ridden hills like that in the
race, I thought, but I was on a Felt-skinny tires and a zippy color-wearing tri shorts and a tri top. I had
hammered the hills, tucking in for the downs and looking at my pace the whole time. They were keeping
an even pace on that ninety degree day as though nothing was going on around them. That, I concluded
as I drove by, what they are doing is a whole different kind of riding than what I was doing.
I have changed my thinking about life through my involvement in endurance sports. After two years
of Sprint triathlons, I started to run ultra-marathons. My initial experience with an ultra-marathon was
crewing a local runner named Todd Baum in his first run at Badwater, a 135 mile run that takes runners
from the lowest point in the contiguous United States, Badwater, in Death Valley to the first portal on
Mount Whitney. Humility. And the value of seeing what is in front of you as something to experience
and not to defeat. My first ultra was the Finger Lakes 50K in Hector NY. The run itself taught me the
value of surrendering to what surrounds you-teaching me that my feet moved faster and my heart was
lighter if I decided to not fight what was around me. I quickly found that the longer distance and single
discipline created both a different mindset and often left me feeling elated and aware of how very small I
am. My surrender mindset helped me with my first fifty mile and while running a .49 mile loop during
a 12 hour race. And it helped me to accept a DNF at mile 35 in the next fifty mile. The DNF was a great
learning experience: during the race, I fought too much and got wrapped up in too many other things. I
should have just kept running. Life moves on: if you are going to push yourself, sometimes you are going
to fail. Not always, not when you expect it, but sometimes you fail.
As I continue to run, I remind myself that I started somewhere different from where I began. When I
started to run, five minutes was a long run. One day, I ran a mile. Later, fifteen minutes. I still recall the
first time I ran for an hour without stopping. I take those memories with me when I run. Gels? Check.
Shoes? Check. Humility? Check. Memories relax me and help me breath. They tell me that the road or
trail will rise and fall and that there is very little I can do about it. I think of those early running moments
every time I go out. Every. Single. Time.
Tough slogans make me nervous. I like them but I do not always believe them enough to wear them.
Running with humility works for me. I love to run: the adventure, the trails and the opportunity to push
myself. There is always another race and another distance. I know that I am alive when I am running. I
connect with what I have be grateful for and I think about people who are unable, for whatever reason,
to be outside enjoying what I am when I am running. We are lucky-those of us who can escape the real
world and spend time doing what we love. And love means letting go.