One More Mile

Each day in March, I’m participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You can visit their site here. This is my slice for Day 21.

Running uphill at mile 6, my legs were sore. It felt like I was dragging limbs of firewood. 

“Uh-oh.” I normally didn’t experience such heavy legs until well after mile 20. I knew this was going to be a long day.

Several months earlier, I had stumbled across an article on motivation in a running magazine. One of the ideas offered was to “Take the chance to inspire yourself”. I had already completed a few marathons, and decided that running a 50-mile ‘ultramarathon’ would be personally mind-blowing. Over the long winter months that followed, my weekly mileage steadily increased, including weekends of back-to-back 25+ mile runs. I even threw in a 50-mile training run, just to make sure I was ready for the big event.

In the final days before the race, the students at my school created a tiny notebook of quotes to carry along the miles, accessing whenever I need a little pep in my step. There were reminders to never quit. There were inspirational running quotes. There were tons of well-wishes. My students believed in me. Somehow, my attempt to run 50 miles had really galvanized them. They were pulling for me to have a great day.

Brimming with excitement and nerves, I barely slept 2 hrs the night before the race. It didn’t matter, because I was ready. I had a plan for my pacing. I had prepared for my hydration. I thought through all my nutrition supplies. I was motivated, inspired, and determined. My legs, mind, and heart, were ready for every one of the 50 miles that awaited.

But I didn’t anticipate the hills. 

There were relentless climbs. Unyielding descents. One after another, after another. So by mile 6, with my legs dying, I knew I was in for a long day. 

By mile 19, I was in tears. 

My calves were locking, my quads were knotted, and I had frequent back spasms. I was walking more than I was running. Pulling out that little book of quotes, I imagined the faces of the students who were cheering for me back home. But no rush of motivation came. No words of inspiration resonated within me. Instead, the internal critic began harassing me. I felt like a failure. Wiping my eyes, I tried to cling on to the words of Theodore Roosevelt who said “It’s not the critic who counts, but the man in the arena.” I knew I was pushing way out of my comfort zone, and that failure was acceptable when one dares greatly. 

But I was about to fail greatly. 

I was going to let all those kids down.

Reaching for my cell phone, I called one of my colleagues. I could barely control my voice. Through intermittent sobs, I relayed just how much pain I was in, and what an abject failure I felt like, devastated to be such a disappointment to my students.

My colleague was re-assuring that the students were proud of me for the challenge I had undertaken, and wouldn’t think any less of me if I had to pull out of the race, even though I was still 31 miles short of the finish line. Then she asked me if I could go any further. 

If I could run one more mile.

When your legs are screaming, and your back is aching, and your inner critic is telling you what a failure you are; 31 more miles is a daunting task. But one more mile is manageable. So I ambled forward.

One more mile.

Running over tree roots and scree, concentrating on every footfall, I pushed forward.

One more mile.

Embracing the pain as part of the process, I strained ahead.

One more mile.

Understanding I was sore, but not injured, I continued putting one leg in front of another.

One more mile.

And as the one-more-miles accrued, I started to believe again. Letting go of the fear of failure, I believed in my training. I believed in my plans. I believed in myself.

Crossing through one of the final water stations, a few volunteers shouted that I was in danger of not earning a belt buckle (the ultramarathon’s version of a race medal) if I didn’t finish the race in the allotted time. And I was angry. Because who needed a stupid buckle? All I cared about was finishing. And nothing was going to stop me from crossing that finish line. I just had to keep chugging forward, one mile at a time. That would be my reward – the knowledge of knowing I had completed the race. 

But heck, if I was so close to earning a prize, (albeit a buckle that would languish in my closet for years to come), I might as well run a little faster. 

So I dug in, and reached deeper inside, finding a level of resolve that I didn’t realize was in me.

Those last few one-more-miles were some of the most painfully wonderful moments of my life. I found that audacious goals require audacious stamina. I found that sometimes the hills in life are relentless, but that I can face them undaunted. I found that I will go any distance to model integrity, grit, and stamina for my students. I found confidence that comes from accepting that failure isn’t a sentence of death, but a setback in life. And in all of this, I found that I had inspired my students, my friends, my family, and myself, one more mile at a time.

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32 thoughts on “One More Mile

  1. This may be my favorite slice of SOLC 2015. Saving the link for when I need that extra motivation to go “one more mile”. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this piece with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading your post made me feel like I was a spectator at your race, which is very stressful too! “Just one more mile,” is a great mantra. I’ve watched my husband compete in triathlons and somehow when you make it just one more mile and cross the finish line all that pain goes away. Congratulations to you for running just one more mile!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! What a great story! And you really made it come alive with your descriptions. I could feel your pain and exhaustion. And so amazing that your colleague said the thing that kept you going – “one more mile.” Thank you for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Instead of commenting, I almost got up and ran a mile! So inspiring! I have a visual of the terrain, and feel like I was on the phone with you. I can hear your colleague, “One more mile?” Amazing story. Simply Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This accomplishment is so impressive, especially since I probably couldn’t run one mile. My husband is a runner. He did one marathon and said, “I don’t know why people do this.” He runs 10 miles but a marathon is another animal entirely. The 50 mile thing is crazy! I can’t believe you didn’t just die.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can assure you that I didn’t yet expire! 😉

      Since this first ultra, I have run a handful more that have been longer than a marathon. It is amazing how our body can adjust and grow stronger and faster with training and time. We can all do so much more than we imagine, if we give ourselves over to the process. Thanks for your encouragement, and best wishes to the runners in your family on any upcoming events!

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  6. Another beautifully written and inspirational post! Every time I read your writing, when I get to the end I want to go back and read it all again. I am sure everyone who reads this will be encouraged to go “one more mile” in whatever race they find themselves running.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m genuinely humbled and appreciative for such a kind response. This “Slice of Life” challenge has been a wonderful way to make sure we get our words to print every day, but even more so, allowing us to enjoy the words of others as well. I’m blessed in both ways!

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  7. Ditto to all the above (no point in repeating things). I’ll bet your students would have been just as proud of you had you not been able to complete the miles, and they would have learned that failure is acceptable when one has done his best. But you obviously felt you needed to do more, and your friend new somehow you could…and the rest is history and a great victory!
    https://barbarasut.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/a-slice-can-be-many-things/

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your post moved me on so many levels. I love that you set a lofty goal and that you shared your goal with your students and that they collected inspirational quotes for you. I love that you pushed yourself, one mile at a time, to finish. I love the line “I found that audacious goals require audacious stamina.” What a beautifully written thoughtful piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I was so blessed by the robust student support, and I really despaired over the thought of letting them down. My friends words were perfectly timed and placed to help me finish the race.

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  9. “I found that audacious goals require audacious stamina. “That caught my attention, too. I think fear of not attaining a big goal keeps me from trying sometimes. This thought , too has me reflecting, “…failure isn’t a sentence of death, but a setback of life.” Great life lessons. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and struggle! Way to inspire!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder how often I unconsciously shy away from challenges, simply writing them off as unattainable by me, without giving myself enough credit. It is in the moments that I DO embrace the challenge, that I learn how much more strength is within me, waiting to be discovered.

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  10. I enjoy reading your posts not only because they stimulate my thinking and inspire me, but also because they are so beautifully written. The phrase “audacious goals require audacious stamina” is something that I think I need to keep posted in my classroom, at home, on my computer…wherever I am. Thank you.

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    • And I enjoy reading your insights and encouragements, as they help embolden me to find my voice and trust that our words matter. Thank you for taking time to offer such thoughtful feedback. It inspires me to give my best in my writing.

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  11. Oh my goodness…this is so inspiring. That phrase and encouragement you got from your friend was incredible! The ultra-marathon about did a pastor at our large church in…put him in the hospital for quite a few weeks. I feel so encouraged to go out and begin running again…maybe just one little mile. I wonder??? xo nanc

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the pastors from the Chicago area had a similar experience a couple years ago when he and some friends ran 100 miles for their charity. It is difficult to judge your limits when your body is in so much distress.

      If you’re considering running (or some fitness pursuit), I hope you find your way to enjoy it, and incorporate it into a sustainable lifestyle. I wish you all the best!

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  12. “One more mile” is now etched in my thoughts. What a great mantra! Congratulations on your accomplishment and receiving and serving as inspiration for your students.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow. You tell this so compellingly and smoothly.
    Congratulations!
    My take-away is your line “understanding I was sore, but not injured…”
    Often we think injured when we are sore. You knew the difference. You would have stopped if you were truly injuring yourself.
    I also appreciate the part when the little, sweet book meant nothing to you. A challenge to ourself is faced alone. Except for your wise friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your insights and encouragement. I must confess there were times during the run when I wished I was injured, just so I could justify stopping! Afterwards, I was grateful to finish.

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  14. Bravo Greg! What an inspiration to your students, and us. Loved the first quote – “Take the chance to inspire yourself”. That can apply to so many things. What a wonderful gift from your students. I so felt your pain. I did a 30 km walk when I was in Gr. 13 and by the time my dad picked me up from downtown Toronto, my feet were so swollen I couldn’t walk.But I did it. Thanks for this exceptional post.

    Liked by 1 person

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