Who Needs Sleep, Hygiene, or Sanity?

tirmonumentSo I just completed another overnight relay race and it was wonderful. Was I sleep, hygiene, and sanity deprived? Yes. Did the lack of sleep and frequent running make me weary and light-headed? Yes. Did I bond with like-minded runners exploring new terrain and learning a lot about myself along the way? Yes. Yes, all of that happened.

My husband and daughters greeted me at the finish line and my husband said what he says each time I do this: “I just could never do that. I would go crazy without sleep and a shower.” I can certainly appreciate that sentiment. I mean, sleep and common creature comforts are what help to make the world go round. It is truly the little things in life that make us comfortable and secure. One thing that strikes me as incredibly interesting; however, is that when we take ourselves out of our day-to-day existence and deny ourselves of our beloved creature comforts, we learn more about who we truly are as people and what is important in life.

So, since I’ve been back from my relay race, I’ve been thinking about what it is exactly that appeals to me about a race of this magnitude, and the following is what I came up with.

  • It’s like an adult sleepaway camp or some sort of spiritual retreat.tirgirlies

I don’t want to say that an overnight relay race is a spiritual retreat exactly, but it really kind of is. Think about it. You’re out communing with nature, devoid of excessive technology and creature comforts, focusing on your passion and your community with like-minded people. You are learning about other modes of thought and perspectives and there’s really no way you can walk away from an experience like that without feeling inspired and transformed in some way. I believe this, right here, is the single most important reason I love participating in the overnight relay race.

  • You are offered a unique experience.tir finale

Participating in an overnight relay race affords a runner unique opportunities. You get to do things you wouldn’t typically get to do at home. Run down the shoulder of a highway at 2:00 a.m. with volunteers present and a van full of supporters? How unique is that of an experience? Run a prepared course that takes you through some really interesting areas full of history and beauty? Yes, please. All of the legwork has been done for runners all so that they can have a special experience. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

  • It forces you out of your comfort zone.darktir

Were you all snuggled into your comfort zone? Well, this will get you quickly out of it. First and foremost, you’re out of that normal day-to-day grind that you are so accustomed to. That load of laundry, sink full of dishes, carpool drop off, etc.? That’s all being handled for you. You’re nowhere around. Being away from home and with new people allows a runner to focus solely on running. Additionally,  there is no home court advantage. Runners are all thrown in this together and must work together exploring new territory. This intimidating setup gives you confidence to try new things, and I believe confidence is a key component to living a fulfilled life.

  • You get to act like you’re 12 years old again. name tags

It’s so much fun to get to act like a kid again. No responsibilities, nowhere to jet off to, you really are only responsible for yourself … not your children, not your spouse, not your animals, not your home. You are FREE! There isn’t the hectic schedule to adhere to. Runners get to be totally selfish and it’s wonderful.

  • You are having old fashioned fun. tir2017

A race set up like this takes away a lot of the distractions. It disconnects you a bit from technology and puts you in touch with good old-fashioned fun.  Looking at things from an unconnected perspective can have a profound impact on how we approach things in life and it allows us to be more open to learning new things. But, above all that, hilarious conversations and one-liners among teammates abound an overnight relay race, and it is fabulous. It is so much fun to be silly with other runners, and being around other runners as they share their experiences is a great way to learn new tricks of the trade, and I am always most appreciative of this aspect of the relay race.

  • You make fast friends.tirgirls

I would venture to say that relay runner friends are friends for life, experiencing a connection like no other. It’s a deep engagement forged through shared experiences.  The experience is unique not only because of the quantity of time with which a team is together, but because of the quality of the time teammates enjoy. Again, this is time away from creature comforts and the day-to-day grind, so it’s uninterrupted bonding time and it’s wonderful. I so enjoy the friendships created on an overnight relay race, and even though I may not be able to visit with these relay friends in person that often, I enjoy a connection through social media with them that I cherish.

  • Self-exploration is inevitable.fly girl

An overnight relay race is a chance for you to really explore yourself. To stop being so hard on yourself and to truly think about how you can grow as an individual. It opens you up to different possibilities. My goal is always to take home things I learn along the way, and every time I do this. I learn a lot from my fellow travelers and I learn to relax and trust my intuition and to just be happy. Above all, be happy.

So, what’s not to love about an overnight relay race? If you’ve never done one, it’s time to change that.

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Training for a Marathon is Exactly Like Marriage

“To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.”                                      -Mark Twain

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Let’s face it, being married is hard. My husband and I are celebrating our 15 year wedding anniversary and I’d be lying if I told you that every day has been a day of wedded bliss. Just like I’d be lying if I told you that every run is great. We have struggled in our marriage, just as I have struggled with my running. There have been times that my husband and I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up on our marriage, and I’ve felt the same way about my running at times. We have had incredibly bright, wonderful, meaningful times in our marriage, and so have I had with my running. There are days where being married is very easy, just as there are easy running days. There have been low points in our marriage where I have doubted my abilities to be a good wife, just as I have often doubted my running abilities. Often I am lazy with my marriage, just as I can be lazy with my running. But one thing is for certain, I do not regret my decision to get married, and I do not regret my decision to become a runner. Being married is a huge part of who I am now; I barely remember that other woman I used to be with that different last name, just as I struggle to remember that woman that wasn’t a runner.

So, my wedding anniversary has me thinking about marriage. I have a hard time thinking about anything without bringing my running somehow into the metaphorical mix. Running is truly part of who I am at this point. So indulge me here, if you will, in my marriage/marathon training comparisons.

Marriage is hard. It takes sacrifice, perseverance, dedication, passion and commitment. Marriage is often inconvenient. I have said all of these things about running more times than I can count. Running has truly taught me that if I want something to work, I must work at it. I may feel weak and discouraged at times, but I have to get up after I have fallen down and hit the ground running. I must continue to fight even when I don’t much feel like fighting. As I reflect on marriage and running, two trite running cliches come to mind: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” and “stay the course,” and while they are overused, they are profound statements. Marriage is a struggle, there are obstacles in our paths and we often feel like quitting, but we don’t. We keep fighting.

I got married in 2002. Since then we created two beautiful daughters and countless fond memories. We have been through a rough bout of unemployment when the housing market crashed in 2008 and it turned our whole world upside down. We got through those tough 19 months on my teacher’s salary and our savings. We made it through that fog. We downsized our home and are still attempting to build our savings back. My running is sometimes a matter of contention for us. I have to remember to be mindful of fostering my marriage with the same fervor with which I foster my running. We find ourselves struggling with parenting, finances, household organization, and intimacy, as I know all married couples do. The bottom line is that we are family. We are a team. My husband is my best friend, and while I am not always happy with him, I love him. We love each other, warts and all, in good times and in hard times. We are committed and dedicated and passionate about our marriage.

This 15 year wedding anniversary is a milestone anniversary for us. Obviously, it’s that next big one after the important 10, but before the big 20, but it’s a milestone anniversary for us for a very different reason. The truth is, my husband and I are not the same people we were when we first got married. We are different. We have grown and changed. At 25 I was just learning to be a grownup. I was not yet a mother or a runner. At 40, I’m learning to negotiate my work, family, friends and running. I am infinitely more busy than I ever was at 25. All of this goes for my husband too. When we were first married we were dreamers. We were embarking on this adult world together. No one could stop us. These days we’re a bit bedraggled by this big, wide world. Parenting is really hard. We often admit that we’re just figuring all of this grownup stuff out as we go along. We don’t claim to have all of the answers, that’s for sure. We’re often tired and we often have a really hard time fitting everything in. We’re very busy and we let things slide. There’s always a dishwasher full of clean dishes waiting to be unloaded and items in the sink on deck to be loaded once the clean ones are emptied, and it’s the same story over in our laundry room. And that dog needs a bath, that lawn needs to be cut, those floors need to be mopped, those emails and texts need to be answered. We’re drowning in responsibility, but it’s everything we dreamed of as a young couple. We truly have everything we wanted.

I looked up the symbol for the 15th wedding anniversary and learned that it is crystal. I also read that “the ancients regarded the crystal as pure water congealed into extreme hardness by great length of time.” This concept intrigues me. I guess this could be taken in two ways. 1). we started out pure and now we are all hard and bitter. 2). We started out as two and have strengthened and become one over time. Number two is much prettier, but number one is also true. Honestly, we have had our bubbles burst a time or two by the big, cruel world, but we have always had each other, and that is really what matters. When things are rough, and we all know that things will get rough for us at times, it is comforting to have your partner with you with which to commiserate. We have each other to lean on. We are not alone. He is my family. We’ve made it fifteen years, and even though we’re different people now, we’ve grown together. We are stronger than we were in the beginning. We started out pure water and congealed into extreme hardness over time.

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