I was on mile 38 or 39 of 48; somewhere between starting and finishing the second to last leg of this race. My feet, swollen, bruised, and blistered (which were the best parts about them) felt broken. Legitimately, broken. The outside bone on my foot and the gap right behind that had something seriously wrong with it. I started conjuring up all kinds of crazy ideas about what was wrong and, more importantly, what could POTENTIALLY happen to them if I didn’t stop running. My brain screamed, “I have to stop running. I can’t make it. I’m injured. It doesn’t matter this much, right?” The MONSTER of doubt was creeping in.
Let me take a second to explain what in the world we were doing. We were running a race that boils down to 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. So you run a total of 48 miles in 48 hours. Jesse Itzler came up with this thing, I think, and it’s a REAL stinkfest.
And then… DING, buzz, buzzz. My phone goes off… It was a text with a map outline of Parker Jolly’s (accomplished distance runner) finishing time of the second to last leg of the 4x4x48. 8:13 min./mile or something insane…Then DING, buzz buzzz, Terry Houin’s (SEAL,ret.) time. Then another, Brandon Lilly (Prolific powerlifter turned trim-fitted badass). They just kept coming. My brain and body exploded with endorphins. WRONG, I had to finish. There’s NO WAY I AM STOPPING. I don’t care if my feet are broken. If they can finish, I can too. And I will. Just one more step. Now another one. Now let’s speed it up just a little. Block the pain. What pain? There is no pain?
Then I was done. Holy shit I actually made it. Now just one more 4-mile run and I am DONE DONE. I honestly didn’t know if I could make it just 8 hours ago. While running the 4 am run, ending at mile 36 of 48 on Sunday morning, the pain REALLY kicked into high gear. See, I made a few fatal errors. 1) I was running on shoes that had about 500 miles on them already. 2) I found out that they are for jogging a half marathon at most. 13.1 miles. NOT 48. So, I tried to improvise by taping my feet, which helped a lot the first two miles but felt like it made the last two miles much worse.
Anyway, we’ve only got one more to go. It’s time to get home and out of this 95 degrees heat, drink a gatorade and coca-cola down, eat something super fast and try to nap. And then I’m startled way by my alarm going off. TIME TO ANSWER THE BELL! I am feeling the energy flow. This is the LAST ONE. Just 4 more miles to go and we are done.
The last 4 miles…
I get my new cushioned socks on, throw my tape on around my feet, put my second pair of socks on, and then lace up my “running shoes” and head out the door. Walking hurts pretty badly. Any weight at all hurts, especially when my foot flexes. “Well, this is about to be really fun,” I say as I hoist myself into my truck to drive to Chastain Park for the last 4 miles. I have a text on my phone from a friend who says “I’ll meet you at Chastain at 4.” THANK GOD! I really hadn’t had anyone run with me aside from Amanda running a few.
We start walking, trying to loosen up my feet and legs that feel like cinder blocks. And then we’re off. I’m taking 10 steps and having to stop. The pain is REALLY that bad. Sharp, shooting pain in my feet going up the sides of my calves to my knees. I knew at that point, though, it would take a gunshot to stop me from finishing this damned race. I walked, ran, hobbled, jogged, almost cried (lol), but I made it. 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.
It wasn’t the distance of four miles that was that tough. Or having to wake up and run every 4 hours. Believe it or not, it wasn’t even that it was for 48 hours, either. But it WAS the fact that it was all of them combined that compounded the difficulty- that and the fact that I was basically wearing blown out flip flops to run in. What an IDIOT.
But the real beauty of this story is what I learned about myself. It’s what anyone learns about themselves every time they put themselves through a REALLY challenging situation. You learn that you can do at least twice as much as you think you can. In fact, science tells us that we only push ourselves about 40% to true exhaustion. Your mind naturally tells your body that you must stop to keep from injuring yourself. It also gave me some new perspective on what “hard” is.
After I completed the race, I kept trying to think of the one thing that had changed. After weeks, I have come to find that it changed way more than I thought. Sure, on the surface, it’s just a race. But as I dug deep to really figure it out, there were four things that this challenge revealed:
1 | Creates more discipline and motivation
Motivation Fades, but discipline is what gets you back in the fight time and time again. And discipline is like a muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it gets. And the more you act, the more motivation you have! I figured after I was done, I wouldn’t want to work out for a while. But the very next day, I rushed to the gym to hammer out two hours on the mats rolling in BJJ. My fitness level has been amped since! I am certainly looking and already planning that next challenge. The more I do, the more energy I have to do!
2 | Changes priorities and perceptions.
What did I think was “hard?” What type of shape was I really in? Can I really do this? Ok, now that I am hurt, how much pain can I really stand? What’s important to me? Well, I realized that I wasn’t in as good of shape as I should be. All of those questions were answered, and then some. I was reminded things are never as bad as you think and that I am not nearly as capable as I want to be.
3 | Strengthens your Grit.
Grit is that thing inside you that pushes you to keep going when no one is watching. It’s the ability to stick to a task until it’s completed, no matter the circumstances. Difficult physical tasks are actually mostly mental. And your ability to keep your doubts at bay, control your mindset and push through will lead to immeasurable wins in both your personal and professional life.
4 | Creates new outlets and relationships.
There were 10 people in our group running this all across America. Some I personally knew, others I’d only met, and still others I’d never met. Not only did I create new relationships within our group, but I had people reaching out all across social media. There were people running “with me” in their hometowns. There were probably more than 50 people that reached out and gave encouraging words. If that doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know wha twill! Thank you to everyone who did reach out because I probably wouldn’t have finished without you!
I can 100% say that I am changed because of the challenge and all for the best.
GO TO GROW!
P.S.- My feet are mostly back to normal!