It’s December already. I’m in Arizona for the holiday and enjoying the relative warmth. I love the feeling I have when I can see the sky. I feel the world is large and open rather than tiny and gray the way it feels at home during winter in the Northwest.
This last Sunday, Bill and I ran the Desert Classic 30K for the second consecutive year. We were both recovering from colds that made us stuffy and wheezy, but it was glorious to be in the dry desert, running beside the White Tank Mountains. I had three hours and thirty-five minutes out there to think and breathe. I used my time to reflect on this last year of running and traveling.
We started the year off in Japan with a marathon in Tateyama, followed it quickly with a trip to South Africa and then another to Brazil in June. On top of our inter-continental races, we ran a marathon in Kelowna, British Columbia in October. In between the marathons, we crammed in a number of other races of various lengths and planned, re-planned and planned again for our 2010 pilgrimage to the bottom of the planet. It’s no wonder I am a little tired, a little poorer than at the beginning of the year and a little worldly-wiser than when I started last January.
The journey to complete a race on every continent is almost over. I’ve got one more this coming year and then I get to put on the ring I bought to celebrate my victory. You’ve all followed me from the beginning through the sleepless nights, the bowel problems, the bleeding, the arguments with my beloved and the long, long hours moving toward each finish line. Thank you for coming along so far. And thank you in advance for sticking with me through 2010, as well. I’ve learned so much it would be impossible to summarize the lessons, but I feel inclined to jot a few of them down as I reflect on this past incredible year. They may sound simple, but they’ve meant a lot to me. Here they are.
- Always run at your own pace. No one else’s pace will allow you to breathe properly, follow a thought all the way to its conclusion or get into a proper day-dreaming mode. Every time Bill and I violate this principle and try to race together, we both feel agitated and out of sync with ourselves and each other.
- Believe in yourself when you stand at the starting line. It’s a long way to the finish line, so a good dose of faith gets you started on the right foot. There’s no point in negative self-talk or pessimism. If you have to spend more than five hours with yourself in a messy physical state, you may as well try to be good company.
- Forgive quickly and often. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling internationally with my partner, it’s that almost nothing goes as planned – and this can produce a lot of anxiety. When people are anxious, they are not their best selves. These moments should not be allowed to define a relationship. When the person I love best acts like he would sooner shove me off the train than reach our destination together, it’s best to forgive the moment he apologizes rather than hold a grudge. I may need the same courtesy in ten minutes or less.
- Embrace every moment in life wholeheartedly. In Brazil, a young runner from Mexico befriended me and waited for more than an hour after crossing the finish line to see me come through. I’ve learned to fall in love with people quickly and to let them go with an open heart. Every encounter, every intersection is sacred and precious and deserves my investment, even if it lasts a very short time.
- And finally, keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know people who run the marathon in a little over two hours, but I’m on the course much longer than they are. I’ve learned that the finish will come, if you keep moving slowly forward. This applies to everything in life. Don’t quit on that argument you’re in the middle of or the paper you have to write. There’s a finish line somewhere out there. Of course, there’s always another starting line, too. Life doesn’t give us much rest, but it comes in cycles so we get a little breather now and again.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful year full of insight, sacred intersections and moments of celebration at the end of your races. Happy New Year and here’s to the races yet to come!