by Mr. Brew Davis
Has anyone ever asked you to do something that was really tough, and you thought there was no way you could possibly do it? Well, about six weeks ago, my wife Jen- who’s a hiker, writer*, and speaker- got invited to give a talk at a race in Lynchburg, Virginia, called the Mountain Masochist** Trail Run, and she asked me to come and run the race with her.
The problem was that the race was 50 miles long and had 9,200 feet of elevation gain (about 1.75 miles up) and 7,200 feet of elevation loss (about 1.4 miles back down). I had run a couple of road marathons (26.2 miles) before, and even a 30-mile trail marathon called the Stump Jump in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but I’d never run more than that. So to finish this race, I would have to run an extra 20 miles, which seemed crazy.
My wife told me that if I trained properly, ate healthy, and got enough rest, I would be fine. But I wasn’t convinced. In fact, I was kind of concerned. I was worried that I’d get injured or just wimp out and not be able to finish. The week before the race, all I could think about was running it. I was nervous, but I knew that I had to do it to find out what I was made of.
There were lots of challenges on the day of the race, which was Saturday, November 6th. We had to wake up at 4:15am to get to the starting line on time, and we had to run the first 6 miles in the dark. There was still snow on the ground at the higher elevations, and the course was actually closer to 52 miles than 50 because, well, the race director is a masochist. But I had prepared well, and I paced myself, and my wife and my parents and other people told me they thought I could do it. And after 10 hours and 15 minutes, I crossed the finish line. And you know what? It was AWESOME! It was one of the best feelings in my life. I was exhausted and sore and hungry and thirsty, but I had accomplished something that I thought was way out of reach just two months ago.
I’m not writing to brag (although if you want to give me a pat on the back, I’ll definitely take it); I’m writing because I think this was one of those “teachable moments” in life, and I thought it was worth sharing with you. There’s a science fiction writer named Arthur C. Clarke, and he said, “The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” For me, the “impossible” was running this race. What is it for you? It doesn’t matter how far-fetched something seems at the time- winning an art contest, getting the lead role in a school play, earning a college football scholarship, or making A-B Honor Roll. You’ve got to work really hard and you’ve got to push yourself if you’re going to get it. Until you break through those fake limits, you’ll never know what you can really do. So go out and do it!
*Her hiking memoir Becoming Odyssa was released on November 15th. You can buy it at her website (www.blueridgehikingco.com), at local bookstores, or online at places like www.amazon.com. ‘Tis the season for buying presents. J
**Webster’s Dictionary says a “masochist” is someone who has “a taste for suffering.”