This is the first time I haven’t felt numb.
I sit at the finish line of the 50 mile race I have just completed.
I’ve been here before. In this space.
But never have I felt every emotion and every ache within my body as I feel now. For the first time, I allow it. I welcome it.
When I started running ultras I was in it for the end result.
The way I thought it would change how others thought of me.
The way I hoped it would change how I felt about myself.
I wanted to go further, run harder.
I dove in, head first and didn’t look back.
My first 100-mile attempt ended in a Did Not Finish.
It crushed me on every level. I had failed.
There was a different way to approach this.
I found guidance. Someone who knew the endurance realm better than I did. I opened myself to the vulnerability of someone witnessing my weaknesses. The places that I was attempting to hide under my accomplishments.
This was the beginning of a massive mental shift.
I dug into the physical pain of training.
I found mountains to climb. Up to the top. Back down. Repeat.
I found myself diving into a depth where quitting could not exist. This corner of the universe is absolutely necessary when you’re 60 miles deep, everything hurts, you’re hallucinating and a dense fog has settled into your mental landscape.
No ounce of quitting can be allowed in this mental box.
Long endurance efforts and races gave me a space to evaluate myself. The universe continued to open doorways that required me to walk a painful path of growth. I would pause at each doorway, take a deep breath and cross the threshold. I still found myself burnt out, in survival mode and seeking a better way to do life. I took a step back from running. I gave myself space. In this I found that my identity is not defined by ultra running. I am simply living inside this body that I have been graced with. Running is a way to celebrate my fitness.
This was step one of metamorphosis.
I found myself in a space within life where everything I thought I knew, was no longer true. I imagine it’s what Neo felt like when he was unplugged from the Matrix. I remember the threshold of that doorway. I remember the pause. I remember telling myself to face what life had just put in front of me.
That moment of choosing to deal and to work through life and feel every level of the pain that comes to the surface would change the course of my life.
I learned to sit with myself through the emotional pain. And to simply allow it. I have taught myself to feel what is being presented. Where is it coming from? What is it trying to tell me right now? Is this the truth or is this an old story playing out?
So I sit at the finish line of my 4th 50-mile race. And I feel everything.
I feel the last 11 hours of movement. The last 11 hours of mental gymnastics. The awareness and acceptance of my lows. The confidence in the highs.
I no longer want to move blindly through these spaces. I want to feel them. Learn to exist within them.
One thing life has taught me, I adapt well to existing within the suffering. This is where I thrive.
This is no longer about what is handed to me at the finish line or what others will think when they see what I’ve accomplished.
I’m doing this for who I will become in the process.
The growth that occurs in the training process of becoming the athlete that can finish such a daunting task.
Despite the space I am moving through in the background of my life.
Despite the pain.
I feel that I have unlocked a door to my potential. There is no longer fear in failing. When I enter these spaces of mental and physical discomfort, I remind myself that I have been here before. I have felt this before.
The next race will test me like no other. The climbs. The altitude. The distance. In the ultra universe, there will be highs and there will be dreadful low’s.
Same as life.
No one saves us from the dark spaces. From the lows.
There won’t be a knight that lights the way and rescues us. We save ourselves. We sit with our demons, with our darkness. We allow it. We lean into it, we learn, we make space. And we feel. We feel all of it.
There will be dark, and there will be light.
In the darkness, remember the light.
In the light, prepare for the darkness.
Written by Heather Griffith