Today was an amazing day. The Mount Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon took place today in my home town. Although I was unable to see the start of the race I did get to see a few finishers come in to the finish line at our local lake. It amazes me what the human body is capable of and that these athletes could accomplish such an amazing feat. These well-seasoned, trim, strong people of ALL ages and from many places ran in the elements on trails for either 26.2 miles or 40 miles. The ultra runners actually summited Mt. Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi river). This is mind numbing to me and I hope next year to be able to spend the day supporting the finishers, maybe even volunteering somehow for the race. Here is a funny article written by a challenge finisher in 2013.
However, there was another rising to the challenge experience today that I want to share. My friend Drew and I (lovingly chauffeured by her husband Darrel) participated in the Band-Aid 8K. This was a really fun race for a great cause. My friend from college, William Talley and his wife Emily are the band directors at Asheville High School. So I reconnected with a friend today and supported a great cause. This was a fun course but had lots of challenging hills. The temps were cold, but the views spectacular. I think the best part of this well-organized event was that the band actually positioned themselves into smaller ensembles all along the route and played for the participants as they ran. From classical to pop music we heard it all. There were even band parents along the way at every turn with cowbells or drums cheering us on to the finish. It was well-marked, well attended, well-organized and just a ton of fun. I should have trained more consistently for this race. I seriously hadn’t run in 27 days. I walked on February 8th but hadn’t run since the 1st. So…my hips are a bit sore due to being asked to run 4.97 miles after that sabbatical. However, my heart is full. After the race I was treated to a lovely meal by my precious friends Drew and Darrel. We went to a yummy Korean restaurant in Asheville and I had my very first stone bowl. Filled with varieties of seafood, veggies and brown rice and topped with an egg, it was the coolest meal ever. It was Whole Life Challenge compliant and I enjoyed it tremendously. So my first 8k, my first time at a new restaurant and eating a new cultural food made for a full day.
So how was this rising to the challenge? Well…if you remember a few short years ago I couldn’t run AT ALL. Now I’ve participated in several 5Ks, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon. I wasn’t last, even though my time was slower than I would have preferred. I ROSE to the challenge. I didn’t quit. I didn’t avoid running a race. I tried a new food. I took a day for myself, felt unhurried and allowed expectation to be erased while I did something for me without feeling guilt, shame or regret. I talked about the trim, svelte, conditioned athletes that ran the marathon/challenge. Well today there was a variety of shapes, sizes and ages in the 5K and 8K races. Yet…looks can be deceiving.
I want to talk about a runner I met today. She finished last. I must admit that when I saw her running and lagging behind I wondered if she would finish the race. Remember I said I wasn’t last…well it was only by two runners. These women amazed me. They didn’t drop out of the race. They were running at a pre-determined, planned pace and enjoying their experience. After the race (Darrel, Drew and I were some of the only ones that stayed to cheer them on at the finish line) I congratulated them and met them. One woman who I’m sure by medical standards would have been considered obese (as am I actually..still even after a loss of 107 pounds) has run in more races than I have. She’s completed a full marathon in Nashville and is delighted to be a runner. I was every bit as inspired by her as by seeing the finishers for the challenge. Rising to a challenge, any challenge is a gift, an accomplishment, a miracle. The human body, and spirit is capable of amazing things. I was encouraged, inspired and challenged today. I want to keep rising to the challenge.
What is my challenge? Is it a race, a specific mileage, a PR on a time? Is it to lose the rest of the weight I desire? Perhaps it’s to finish other things on my dream list? Maybe though, just maybe it’s to be the best me I can be with all of the information, knowledge and faith I’ve been given. I think it’s to love and be loved. I think my challenge is to live a full, God-honoring life by loving people as Christ does, trying to accomplish more than I ever thought I could through God’s strength and sharing His love with others in the process. Rising to my challenge means fixing dinner when I’m tired, washing laundry when I’m exhausted, listening to my child perseverate about a topic, doing endless hours of homework (all without being appreciated). It means listening more than I speak, loving more than being angry, praying more than gossiping, and trying and failing more than being afraid. My challenge is multi-faceted. It’s bigger than I am, but it’s not impossible. There will be many people on the same path that I am (trying to be a good spouse, a good parent, life-long learner etc.) but it’s my race. It’s not going to look like anyone else’s. It will be at my pace, my speed and ebb and flow.
I’m a blessed woman. I’m so grateful for lessons learned, experiences shared and challenges accomplished. I’m looking forward to 40 and beyond. Maybe if I keep racing I’ll eventually be in an age group where I’ll place ;-). Thanks for reading. Share with me something that you’ve accomplished. How have you risen to YOUR challenge?