What in the heck are you thinking?
“Why are you wearing a backpack?”
“What’s that for?”
“What in the heck are you thinking?”
Those were the questions I answered over and over when training for the GoRuck Challenge last month. A big part of the challenge was to carry a backpack chockfull of bricks (mine weighed about 30 pounds) for the duration of the 12 hour trek. So, about a month before the challenge I began wearing my pack to work, and subsequently fielding questions left and right. My favorite scenario went like this: During a down moment someone would pick up the pack and say, “What have you got in here, bricks?” “Yep.”
Then there were the questions I asked myself.
- Why would I purposefully sign up for an event designed to “break me?”
- What made me think I could do this? I wasn’t sure I could stay up all night, much less carry the brick-laden backpack and whatever else I’d have to endure. I questioned by my age and my ability; at times the self-doubt was paralyzing and an impediment to my training.
- How did I get myself into this situation? Upon reflection, there were several compelling reasons why I committed to this and why I will continue to seek future adventures and challenges.
The first was ego, pure and simple.
When you’re 55 with hip problems and lingering self-esteem issues from high school – and some young(er) male athletes ask you to sign up because they somehow think you can hang with them – you say yes and worry about it later. There is a sense of pride that has come with my new identity as an athlete, and the mere notion that this challenge was within my reach brought with it a feeling of accomplishment.
The second was the opportunity to be a part of a team.
The idea of working with the entire group, as one team, compensating for one another’s weaknesses and encouraging each other to finish was appealing; The GoRuck Challenge did not disappoint. But, I find the same to be true when I’m running a race or even just out for a run on my own. There is that special little head nod that runners exchange that says,
“Welcome! You’re part of the club.” “Way to go!” “You’re out here; you’ve got this.”
The last reason I signed up for the GoRuck challenge was honor.
GoRuck is run by members of our US Special Forces and taking one night to experience just a taste of what our men and women in uniform go through to protect our freedom was an honor; I am forever in their debt. I approach any event I enter the same way. I do it in honor of my friend who can’t run, or to honor the sacrifices others have made in my behalf; it is my way of expressing gratitude.
Ultimately, we exercise and train to get in shape. We strive to be thinner, leaner, healthier; we do it to be able to enjoy our lives as we age. Training with a purpose, though, adds a dimension that will help anyone reach a new level of fitness in a way that just exercising to be healthy cannot. It increases motivation, provides a blueprint for the training experience and offers camaraderie. The feeling of accomplishment that one feels at the conclusion of an event is unparalleled. Best of all, the journey to get there is challenging, fulfilling and just plain fun.
My next adventure? I don’t know… I’m thinking Tough Mudder in September with a couple of races along the way to help me prepare. We shall see..
Karen Adler is…
An educator by trade, runner, hiker and adventure-seeking fitness enthusiast by passion. She explores what it means to be fit after fifty along with the multiple joys and trials that come with age. She is truly an Athlete On Fire!