The Joy of the Struggle

Whatever you do just don’t stop. You can think about how much this sucks and how tired you are, but keep moving. Ugh there’s a rock in my shoe; just ignore it keep moving. I still have that huge pass to climb. I don’t know how I’m going to make it. It’s starting to get cold out here, my sweat is drying, but I won’t be at an aid station for another few hours…shoot I should have brought my gloves with me. It’s getting dark. I hate being out here alone in the dark when I’m tired. The night is so long. Don’t cry, you can’t, your contacts will start getting irritated and you didn’t bring another pair; just keep moving. Why do I keep doing this? I hate this, I just want to go home. I miss Jeff and Nali. What I wouldn’t give to be in my warm bed with some Netflix. Stop. Stop thinking about reasons to quit. Maybe there will be a rattlesnake around here somewhere and it will bite me—then I won’t be able to continue. Sam stop hoping that you’ll be bitten by a rattlesnake, you’re not thinking clearly. At the next aid station you need more food. My feet are hurting and I’m only halfway done, how am I going to make it another 50 miles? Don’t think about that, just keep moving. You’ve done it before and you can do it again. You’ve been through worse Sam. Keep going, you’ve been through worse.

There’s something about the struggle that’s life changing. So often in life we’re working through problems because we hope life will get easier, instead of realizing that often times life doesn’t get easier; we just become more capable of managing the challenges. But focusing solely on just surviving the struggle we lose site of, or we’ve never realized in the first place, how to find joy in the struggle. Why would a person want to go through unnecessary pain? What is the point? And how can a person ever find joy in suffering?

The soul finds itself through pain and challenges. It is easy to coast through life when things are stable, but you will probably find that you’re struggling to find true happiness. Granted, stability is amazing; but there’s a stagnation in the mundane that can breed complacency and unhappiness if one is not careful. I am not suggesting that we should go out and try to make our lives more difficult, but I am suggesting that in the midst of struggle we face it without crutches.

The first time I completed a 100-miler was a little over three years ago. I had no idea what I was in for, and it was the single most important 28 hours of my life. I say that because the pain, exhaustion, and the sadness was so overwhelming, and unlike other challenging times in my life, this event I brought on myself. I wanted to quit more times than I can count, but that just made finishing that much more amazing. I surpassed my own expectations of what I was capable of, and every time I wanted to quit but didn’t, my mind stored those moments and a newfound strength was born.  When I crossed the finish line for the first time I was overwhelmed with emotion (and still am to this day). I’ve completed a number of ultras since this first run and much harder ones to be truthful; but my first one will always be the most impactful. I surprised myself that day and surpassed what I believed was my limit. There’s so much in life that can happen to us, or horrific circumstances that can emotionally cripple us, but there’s always an underlying strength deep within the soul.  And once you can tap into it, you may be surprised at the valiant person you find.

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