How Do You Find The Triumph In The Struggle?

I don’t think I would be training for an ultramarathon if I did not have a child with special needs. I have no way of knowing that for sure, but I’m fairly confident that is the truth.

Before Wil was born, I didn’t have any real emotional struggles in my life. I mean, we all have our stuff, our problems, our insecurities, but there was really nothing in my life that caused me to dig very deep within to deal with and pull myself out of.

I was an athlete, I knew about mental and physical discipline, but I still don’t think I would have ever pushed myself as far as I do now physically and mentally, without Wil.

When Wil was born, it was a struggle in so many ways. A struggle to accept his unexpected diagnosis, a struggle to handle the impact on our marriage, and the ultimate ongoing struggle of wondering if I was doing enough for Wil. Will I ever do enough or be enough for him?

Though all of those struggles bore with them their own weight, the last one is the one that hits the hardest. That “enough” question is endless. There is always so much out there, yet never enough.

So, it’s a question only I can answer to myself. It’s a tough one, because even the best of me is full of flaws, and insecurities. But, I have learned over time, that if I am always growing, always learning to find the lesson in the struggle, to find the triumph in the struggle, then that will always be enough for Wil, and for myself.

In the ultramarathon, people from the outside looking in may say, why run that distance? How far will she have to go until it’s enough? Will it ever be enough?

But, that is the wrong question.

The question is, how do you find triumph in your struggles? That is a very personal question to each and every one of us, and the answer is different for each and every one of us. And, one that is only answered in the moment, as we are always reinventing ourselves in our growth.

Right now, one way I have learned to find triumph in the struggle is in ultrarunning, but it didn’t start there.

I first found the triumph in the struggle in training for a half marathon. I was not a runner, so this goal scared me enough to motivate me highly, along with the fact that I was running it for a fundraiser for the National Down Syndrome Society.

I’ll never forget when I ran 15 miles in training for the first time. It was the longest run in the half-marathon plan. At mile 13, I’d had it. I didn’t want to go a step further. I was physically hurting, I was mentally spent. But, I had this race to run, and I wanted to run it well, so I pushed forward.

Every.single.step. was a mental struggle. Keep running, Christie, come on, one foot in front of the other. Oh, but I could walk, who would know? Just walk a little, it will be ok.

Yet, I knew, if I walked, even though it would be ok, it would make a mental change in me. I couldn’t honestly say to myself I had run a full 15 miles. At that time, running that distance was important to me. I had to keep running, for myself, for Wil, for NDSS. And, so I did.

Then, something happened. With a half mile to go, I just started crying. I’m running down Wampler’s Lake Road, with all these cars going by, and I have tears streaming down my face. I knew I was going to make it, I had found the triumph in the struggle, and I gave it all I had that last half mile.

I broke a huge mental barrier within myself. I felt sick to my stomach, but at the same time, I had never felt better in my life!

Immediately upon finishing, I texted my friend, Ema, who is a marathon runner, and a great one! I knew she would understand my feelings. She encouraged me every step of the way in training for this race, and I couldn’t wait to share with her.

She, as always, was very encouraging and full of smart advice. She texted something back I will never forget. “Those last 2 miles are always the hardest, no matter how far you run.”

How true that is, in both running and in life. The triumph is always found in those proverbial last 2 miles.

And, so, running, in a way, helps me train for life. It forces me to dig deep, and find the triumph in the struggle. Right now, I find that most in running greater distances. I may be exhausted and feeling like puking, but it is also a place the forces me to dig deep to find the triumph in the struggle. No one else can do that for me, it’s an inside job, and only I know if I have been fully honest with myself.

So, with all of this running, and also in raising Wil, I no longer ask myself if I am doing enough.

That is the wrong question.

The question is, How do I find triumph in the struggle?

And, the answer, well, you have to figure that one out for yourself.

CHI MARATHON 2014

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