When we are young, we get bigger, stronger, faster and better as we grow. But let’s face it. At some point in our lives, the relationship between age and physical abilities reverses. As the first goes up…the second goes down. My goal is to push that point off as far into my future as possible and, when that day comes, my new goal will be to prevent the gap between age and physical limitations from growing as slowly as possible. At nearly 48 years of age, I know that day could easily be tomorrow. But, it’s not today. Today I ran 4.5 hilly miles.
None of that is the reason why YOU should run an obstacle course race this year. At least not the only reason. You should run one because you are trying to reach the point of self-actualization. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this is our innate human striving to achieve our full potential. It’s our natural state of being. If we don’t have this drive, it’s usually because a lower level need (such as accomplishment, prestige, belonging or safety) is not being met. Of course, not all of those needs will be fully met all the time and you can still find that drive to be the best version of yourself.
In his book Wild at Heart; Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, John Eldredge says “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” While I believe this is mostly true for men, I think that many women also long for the challenge, or, as Eldridge puts it, “a battle to fight” as well as “an adventure to live.” In the absence of a true legitimate challenge in our lives, we may create less health challenges for ourselves. For example, many of the kids I work with find their challenges and adventure on the streets in ways that are often illegal and dangerous or deadly. How many people do you know that seem to just stir up drama just to get their (and other people’s) adrenaline flowing?
There are those of us who simply try to meet the need to be challenged by aligning with someone else’s challenge. I think this is why many of us are so passionate about our sports teams. Their challenge becomes our challenge. We align ourselves so closely with these teams that we refer to them as “We” and “Us.” I’m certainly guilty of this as well. Right after jumping up and down on my couch after the Patriots pulled of one of the greatest comebacks in sports history in this year’s Superbowl, I am sure I turned to my friends and said, “I can’t believe WE just did that!” We? There’s not a single person on that team who knows who I am and none of them would consider me part of their “WE!”
I am not advocating giving up these other challenges by alignment. I like watching my teams way too much to do that. But maybe you need a new challenge in your life? Who doesn’t feel like they can lose a few pounds or need to get in better shape? Getting ready for an obstacle course race certainly meets that goal. And, believe me, fear is an amazing motivator! Joe De Sena, founder of Spartan Race and author of Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life says “Once you sign up for a Spartan Race, once you tell all of your friends about it, you, too, are committed. To back out is to admit failure not only to yourself but also to others. This should motivate you to honor your commitment and show up at the starting line ready to race.” That commitment and the fear you feel as the race approaches are your motivators: and they work very well!
If you are now saying to yourself, “Ok, I can see y0ur point, but I think I can accomplish all of these things without doing an obstacle race.” I understand. But, Joe De Sena also points out that “When you participate in purposeful suffering, your happiness level actually rises.” In addition to the inverse relationship between age and physical limitations, there’s another even more important inverse relationship in life. As Moliere puts it, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” When you cross the finish line of your first obstacle race, your mind and body will thank you! There is no words that can describe that feeling.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot that most common excuse. You’re not in nearly good enough shape to do this. These races and, more importantly, the preparation for these races are all about mental grit, not necessarily physical prowess. I read this quote on the web: “Fitness is 100% mental. Your body won’t go where your mind won’t push it.” True. In addition, there are a million programs online to literally get you from the “Couch to a 5K” and more!
So, if defying the aging process, becoming the best version of you physically and mentally, finding challenge and adventure and committing to something that will forever change your life aren’t enough, here’s my last pitch. This morning as I ran, as if divinely delivered, two song played out just as I needed them to, which pushed me on through the toughest hills. First was “Rebel to Rebel” by 38 Special, a song that Donnie Van Zant penned as a tribute to his brother, the late great Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. It reminded me of my brother Eric who passed last March and how 17 of us ran the Long Island Tough Mudder in his honor last summer. The next song was Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, my father’s favorite. I thought of him and realized that he and my brother were there with me, pushing me on that hill. Since they can’t be here in our time and space doing these races, I will do it to honor their memories. Maybe you have someone you can run for, too.
So, if you are ready to take that step, let me know! If you are around here, come join me on one of the 6 races I am doing this year. If you are somewhere else and just want ideas and inspiration as to how to start, let me know. Right now, I am training a group of kids at my school (who have spent their lives backing away from legitimate challenges and engaging in unhealthy behaviors) to do their first obstacle race in May. If they can do it, so can you!