Running an ultra marathon is one of the hardest physical feats a person can accomplish. Imagine running for 24 hours or more without a break, over a terrain of sharp stones, sticks, stumps, fallen logs, streams, and mud all competing for the last bit of your energy. Imagine your entire body being slammed against the ground thousands of times while you use an extraordinary amount effort in a futile attempt to comfortably absorb the repeated shocks to your body. Ankles hurt, knees are in pain, hamstring muscles cramping, thighs are burning. The big toe was throbbing until you slammed it into that rock earlier, and now you can’t feel it at all and you can’t help wonder if it is broken. You picture blisters appearing all over your feet.
What possesses people to do such a thing? Wasn’t the car invented so we didn’t have to torture ourselves in such a grueling manner?
Today I tasted what this experience must be like and what I am in for when I reach my long range goal of running an ultra marathon. A yearly event, the “Deep Hollow Half Marathon,” traverses Liberty Mountain in Lynchburg on trails that must have been made either for or by the devil himself. The name really doesn’t fit seeing that your trek begins by climbing straight up the side of a mountain. “Deep” and”Hollow” are not two words I would use to describe the path. The word “hollow” means “valley,“ but for 13 miles, we ran up and down and all over a mountain but never anywhere in a valley! I’m convinced the name is part of the evil plan to entice people to actually run this course. Who wouldn’t want to take a lovely stroll in a “deep hollow?”
Despite strong inclinations to skip the whole idea, I began this run that a friend had so wittingly talked me into. “It will be fun”, he said. I can only conclude that some people have a seriously twisted view of fun.
During my race, I had the honor of running beside an ultra marathoner for several miles. And I quickly became his biggest fan. This guy runs 50 miles just for the heck of it! Gleaning knowledge from experts is one of my favorite pastimes, so I asked, “What do you know that could help me run better?” His advice changed not only the way I run but my entire perspective on life.
His guidance was simple: save your energy: don’t fight the downhill and don’t waste your energy killing the uphill. You can “rock and roll” on your way down, but on your way up save energy by taking it slowly. In other words, “go with the flow.” Some of the best things in life are simple, and this counsel was one of those things!
My obsession with making an application of everything to life didn’t fail me here. The other day I was stressing over something that was totally out of my control, demonstrating the opposite of “going with the flow”. How many times do we worry, fight, stress, or obsess over things that we cannot control even if we wanted to? How often do we hold ourselves back on the downhill, while wearing ourselves out fighting and pushing on the uphill?
This week, take command of what you can control, but not fight the rest. In the words of the great tennis player Andre Agassi, “Control what you can control.”
He made this his mantra. You and I should do the same.