Now is the time when you have to learn to embrace new friends again. These friends are going to come with names like Perseverance, Character, Hope, Faith, Courage and above all Love. As we begin to move into the person, we were created to be these new friends are who we need to embrace. There are going to be days when you don’t want to embrace them, you’re not going to like some of their radical ideas. Most likely these new friends are going to seem hard to get to know. There will be days like you feel like you’re banging your head against the side of a sheer rock face hoping it will let you in so you can explore the other side.
It doesn’t matter who you’re trying to become or what you’re trying to do. Doubt and Fear cannot get you to the other side but rather than try and violently kick these two friends to the curb do something really radical. Embrace your friends Doubt and Fear and begin to influence them to change in their ways. As you embrace Doubt and Fear, not shutting them out but also not listening to their unfounded words and pictures of future doom, suddenly one of your new friends will show up more and more. This new friend will show up when you least expect them to. As you’re ascending the Wall of Death (doesn’t have to be the trail one, could be something equally as difficult like not drinking that glass of wine tonight), when you least expect to be able to make it to the top this friend will show up and give you an extra kick to make it through this stretch. This friend is named Perseverance. Perseverance is a fantastic friend to hang out with. The more you hang out with Perseverance the more it will seem that every time you set out to do something, whether it be a hard run, write a book or close a big sale, every difficulty, failure or opposition will spring up but you will be springing over them. Think of it like a trail run. You’re out running this perfectly beautiful trail run along a serene stream with its constant bubbling with towering and majestic trees all around only broken up by equally majestic mountain peaks and rock outcroppings that look like they’re impossible to hold that pose. As you run along, you’re taking in everything until suddenly out of nowhere there is a tree root and your trailing foot as your hip revolves it to be your plant foot hits that root and the next thing you know you’re Superman and you’re flying through the air. Now you must decide something as you’re lying on the ground with your sunglasses off to the side, some nice soon to be bloody scrapes on your hands, arms and legs and the wind knocked out of you. At this point you MUST decide, you only get to pick one of two options. You can either listen to Doubt and Fear which are telling you a moment like this was going to happen and slink back slowly to your car vowing to never run a trail again and maybe you’ll just stick to 5K runs on pavement. Or you can choose to listen to Perseverance. Perseverance is there telling you a different story and painting a different picture. See Perseverance says, “You tripped. Now get up, dust yourself off, rinse out the bad cuts and get back running again.” Perseverance says move on, keep going, don’t give in. Perseverance knows you’re probably going to hit another root or rock or just plain mis-step again somewhere on this run but Perseverance says one thing that if you’re willing to listen to this voice is going to begin to make all the difference in your life. See Perseverance says very simply, “You got this and I’ve got your back. As you keep running, you’re going to develop something you never thought you would have and I’m going to introduce you to another friend of mine. This friend is going to take you very far along your journey. This friend is here to help you take the next step in becoming who you were made to be.” Perseverance has this amazing friend that you’re going to be introduced to along your journey. This friend is named Character and this new friend that Perseverance is going to introduce you to is going to take you very far along this journey.
In the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run there is this one section that you’re going to run no matter whether you’re doing the 50K, 50 Mile or 100 Mile race. This section goes from Cow Camp to Dry Fork. This is just a 6.5-mile section along a dusty four-wheel drive road and for the most part it looks fairly easy. The challenge is that no matter where you are in this race you are dead tired by this time. In the 50K race you’ve already ascended a beast of a hill and then come back down the back side on a very narrow, winding single track game trail. Your legs are beat up, you’re already tired and you’re only about nine miles into your 32 miles. On the 50-mile race you’ve already done a marathon and are 28 miles into your race. You’ve descended into a canyon along some of the trickiest, most technical single-track trails you could imagine and ascended one of the most difficult sections you will ever ascend where you gain over 3300 feet of elevation in a mere 3.5 miles and then ascend another 1000 feet after that to then come back down that 1000 feet or so to arrive in Cow Camp. For those who run the 100-mile race you’ve hit this section the day before going out and now you have to climb it again only this time, you’re doing it on legs that have already run 76 miles and are beat to death. In other words, Perseverance has gotten you this far but as you begin the slog from Cow Camp to Dry Fork its time to engage in a relationship with another friend. This friend is named Character.
There are a lot of ways to describe this friend. Character can be the traits and qualities that distinguish the individual nature of each and every person. Character can refer to the qualities that people from a particular place have. Character can be many things and you need them all. However, when you are facing the climb from Cow Camp to Dry Fork, the climb to the final timed aid station, the climb to becoming the person you were created to be, you need a really different kind of friend Character. This friend Character is the one in the English language is called an uncountable noun. Character in this instance becomes that friend that instills you with the ability to deal effectively with difficult, unpleasant or dangerous situations. It is at this point in becoming who you were created to be that as you climb out of the sheltered forests, in the middle of the day with the sun beating down on you, your legs already trashed, your stomach a roiling mass of nothingness, your mind numb to what you are doing and your spirit ready to be crushed so you can throw in the towel that Doubt and Fear are right there with a cold beer telling you to bag it, sit down, take your pack off and chill because you can’t do it anyway. And this is when you must embrace a new friend, perhaps one that you have always wanted to get to know but maybe you were intimidated by their soundness, their courage, their seemingly larger than life persona. This is when you must embrace and get to know Character because the only thing that is going to carry you on this hot dusty road to the top of Dry Fork is Character. From three miles out, you begin to see the tents of the Dry Fork aid station, they look a million miles away. You know those white tents represent a chance to change into dry socks and shoes, they represent people that are going to encourage you, feed you, give you something cool to drink. If you’re fortunate those tents represent a loved one who is going to wipe the dust off your face, give you a big hug and tell you that you’re their hero and then push you out to finish the last eighteen miles of the race. In this moment facing one more difficult obstacle to you finishing Character is going to be your best friend. This friend Character is what is going to get you moving when everything within you is shouting STOP and you just want to curl up in a ball and sob your eyes out. The more you embrace Character the less Doubt and Fear are going to be able to interfere with your life and the more you are going to move on to another new friend that is going to help you establish the dreams and visions that are going to move you on to becoming the incredible you that you were created to be. This new friend is one that both Perseverance and Character are going to help you embrace. This new friend is named Hope.
Hope is an incredible friend to embrace because Hope never disappoints us. I was running a 50K and was having a really rough time and couldn’t figure out why. I knew I was sleep deprived as we camped in a tent at the site of the race the night before. It had been a rough day; my car had died the day before we left so, I was driving a truck the repair shop had lent us. My job had been way more than stressful as I was dealing with a contractor who didn’t want to pay any of their bills. And then the temperature in July decided to get really cold at night and my wife and I didn’t have the right clothes and we huddled with every article of clothing over us in the tent. In the middle of the night the alarm on the truck started going off and it being unfamiliar it took me a little longer to get the alarm shut off. Then when we woke up in the morning our cook stove took longer to get going so the coffee wasn’t ready by the time, I had to take off for the start line. About five miles into the race I had been fighting my knee brace sliding down my leg and I couldn’t figure out why it was suddenly sliding down all the time. I finally stopped to analyze this at the top of a really long hill I had climbed to find out that I had put it on upside down trying to get ready in the dark of the tent.
As I was taking my warm jacket off and stuffing it in my pack I was passed by countless runners and felt like it was going to be a really long day as I had another 26 miles, a marathon, to go to the finish line. Suddenly one of my running friends crested the hill and something inside of me just said to settle in with her and help her get her first ultra-finish, not to worry about my time but to help this person achieve their first and to just stick with her through the race.
Something surged up within me and I went from being cold and discouraged to this unbelievable surge of warmth spreading through me as I thought about helping this friend through the next twenty-six miles to cross the finish line of an ultra for her first time.
This friend that surged up inside of me is Hope.
Hope is that friend that never disappoints because there is a love for others that will surge up within us and come pouring out in a sacrificial way like none other. After all, there was once a man who walked this earth and then sacrificed Himself for our sins, all because He wanted us to live a life to the full, an ultra-life where limits and boundaries don’t exist because of His sacrifice.
Hope is known to run around in a triad with two other friends that can’t be overlooked and often times cannot be separated.
These other two friends Faith and Love are in a world all their own but they cannot exist without Hope.
Hope moves us through whatever obstacles stand in our way, Hope builds up and doesn’t destroy, Hope is that calm in the midst of the storm. Hope is the knowledge that no matter what we face, whether our knee brace is upside down, we seriously need a jolt of caffeine or we are way off course, Hope always brings us back to a solid place, a calm shelter or just merely a friendly face coming up the crest of a hill that changes our race from one that is all about ourselves to a race that is about somebody else.
We both finished that race and we were DFL, dead freaking last, but we both knew that Hope had helped us ride out the storm, ride out some rough emotions and cross a finish line together.
This will be one of my all-time favorite races I have ever run because for one of the first times in my life when Doubt and Fear threatened to make me turn around and head back down the hill and call it a day, living to fight another day, there was Hope. Hope held out it’s hand and told me to take a chance on a friend and help her finish a race for her first ultra. Hope got us through streams, up and down hills, past the turnaround where all our friends already were and back the other side to cross the finish line proud of who we were becoming.
Hope didn’t disappoint that day and will never spend a day disappointing if we will embrace everything Hope has to offer.