It has long been said that going the distance will change us forever. This is just as true now as is has been throughout the history of sport, whenever men and women have made the decision to see what they were capable of. How are people changed when they do distance events? When a person crosses the finish line of a 5K, half marathon, full marathon or an ultra event, they are not changed by what they just did over the last several hours. They are changed by what they did in the long months or years, since they first made the decision to pursue that goal.
Often a person makes their fateful decision while watching news coverage of an event, seeing runners and walkers out training in their neighborhoods or a friend asks them to do it with them. Sometimes it’s because they are worried about their weight or another health issue. This is the moment the change begins, not when they finally cross a finish line. Those first few months after their decision is made are usually pretty tough, but also magical as improvement comes quickly.
An adult athlete in training learns to endure discomfort. This can be a very new and frightening experience for a beginning athlete. Seasoned road warriors know that there are going to be times they are really sore, but know it goes away. There will be times they are exhausted to the point not even being able stand under their own power, but that also passes. Becoming stronger, they recover more quickly and that which was once difficult is now easy as new levels of fitness are achieved.
Men who once wouldn't think of going out without their hair combed perfectly or women who wouldn’t be seen in public without their make up just right, soon become comfortable being covered with sweat and hair a mess. Fashion becomes less important than function and comfort. We also come to realize that we aren't all that different from all the other athletes out there training. Like a horse galloping across the pasture, we tend not to care what the cattle we pass think of us, not from an inflated ego, though we are proud, but because we have become comfortable within our own body.
The long workouts teach us that we can do more and go further than we believed possible. We discover that we do indeed have that magic called will power. Spending a couple of hours alone on the road with only our thoughts for company and moving under our own power, teaches us lessons that can be learned no other way. The hard workouts are when we learn, we are not weak but powerful and in control. We become stronger but also tougher.
Somewhere along the way we come to realize that we are not just passing through life, but we are truly alive. We are as we should be, at peace.
It’s not just a step, it’s a start.