Yesterday I completed my 5th "official" marathon. And by far, it was my easiest.
It wasn't the easiest one because I'm suddenly a marathoner in great running shape - my legs this morning would like to chat with you if you're tempted to believe that.
It wasn't the easiest one because it was an easier course - 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles no matter what the course is.
It wasn't easiest because of the weather - but on a side note - thank you God for that weather!!
No - more than anything else - I think it was the easiest one because it was the first one I wasn't running for me.
Two years ago I helped my buddy Colby finish his first half marathon. Crossing the finish line with that 14 year old kid was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. So last year, when he decided this year would be his first marathon, and he wanted me to be a part of it, I was all in.
Of course Covid came along and altered the plan a bit. But yesterday, there we were, just the two of us on the Capital Trail, lined up to tackle this race and make Colby's marathon dream come true.
And from the very beginning that's how I saw this race. This was my chance to help someone else make their dream come true.
I think that's why this is the first marathon I didn't hear the voices inside my head begging me to quit. They just never showed up. Maybe that's because they were too busy screaming in Colby's head. I recognized that face - Colby's face late in the race - the face of a runner dreaming of becoming a marathoner suddenly hearing the voices telling him he never will be.
I knew I was the only person there who knew those voices were liars. I knew I had an obligation to make sure Colby knew that. I knew I had not just an obligation, but a desire - maybe a desire as big as any personal desire I've ever had - to make sure he knew MY voice was far more invested in who he could become than THOSE voices.
At mile 25 I saw a kid ready to lose it. I saw tears beginning to form - I may have even heard a whimper or two. I saw a kid in the death grip of the voices in this world hell bent on us never discovering our best selves.
But I was with him. Old enough and maybe finally wise enough to recognize an opportunity right then and there for me to become my best self. Because I believe more than I ever have our best selves are discovered in entering the hurting and doubts of someone else and helping them find their best selves.
So I looked at that kid and told him you ARE going to be a marathoner. It's who you are. We've covered 25 miles - I absolutely KNOW you are covering this last 1.2 miles.
Your pain right now feels like something trying to talk you out of this; in reality, it's pain preparing to celebrate you. Preparing to remind you just how hard you worked to become your best self.
And that's what he did. He finished. In that moment he became the absolute best version of who he could be right then. I couldn't have been more proud.
As I drove home, I felt this sense of peace that I too was my best self in that moment. I was reminded that sometimes the best way to make our dreams come true is to make our dreams about someone else's dreams.
Maybe that's not even sometimes. Maybe we're wired to pursue the dreams of others and the pursuit of self goes against everything we were made to do. I don't know...
But I am certain that when we see tears in life, they aren't a signal to walk away. They are an invitation to draw near and remind someone that the tears may be a part of this moment, but they aren't going to define it.
Moving beyond them will define it. And together we're going to do just that. Move beyond them.
Lauren Jones recently spent 4 1/2 days trying to run the 350 mile Pinhoti trail faster than anyone ever had. She came up short, but the story she tells about the experience is not a story of loss. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
When I recently ran the Georgia Jewel 35-miler (37ish miles in this COVID altered addition), I had no idea I was sharing the trail with a former Georgia Bulldog offensive lineman. Only Watts Dantzler was tackling a much longer race that day than I was.
15 years ago, Whitney Richman watched a friend finish the Chicago Marathon. She thought to herself, hey, I can do that.
The next year she did. And the running accomplishments have piled up ever since.
I love this conversation with Whitney. We talk about her recent fastest know time finishes on Richmond's Capital trail - both the 52 miles one way and then a couple of months later the 104 mile both ways run.
Whitney decided to tackle the capital trail records after training for races that were eventually cancelled because of COVID safety measures. Whitney said:
“When you invest so much training and time into achieving a goal, time that you spent away from your kids and family, you need to feel like it was worth it.”
In this conversation we talk about Whitney's love for the ultra community, how they have an "it takes a village" mentality about them.
Whitney gives us some advice on how to manage the self talk that is always trying to talk us out of becoming our best selves. Whitney shares how running can actually become our best form of therapy.
We talk about how running impacts our ability to make quick and confident decisions. She jokes that her husband is still picking out paint colors while she's moved on to the next project. We all have different decision making processes. We question whether the ultra runners decision making style works for or against us in the long run.
Whitney previews her upcoming Rim to River 100 mile Ultra on November 7 - I'm fired up to follow her on this journey. You can read more about that race here: Rim to River 100
Read more about Whitney's Capital Trail record runs here: Record Setting Run on the Capital Trail
You can download this episode of the Running4Soles podcast at Podbean, iTunes or listen to it on Spotify.
Shortly after I completed my 37 mile Georgia Jewel ultramarathon, I read a post Meg Landymore shared on the race Facebook page and I knew I wanted to interview her. Meg actually won the female division of the 50-mile race.
She wrote this:
I wasn't far into my recent Georgia Jewel race when I heard footsteps coming up from behind me. Then I heard a voice, "are you Mr. Keith?"
Hearing myself referred to as "Mr. Keith" made me instantly feel like an old man. When I turned and saw how young the man was from where those words came, I felt like I should probably be spending the day in a nursing home and not out on the trails of the Georgia Jewel.
The young man was David Kauffman. It turns out he and his wife Mary Ann were running their first ultramarathon. David told me that in preparing for their race he had listened to my podcast conversations about the Jewel. He specifically pointed out how inspired he was by the one I recorded about my Georgia Jewel failure.
As one of the precautionary measures during the Covid-19 pandemic, all running events have been cancelled. This is the story of a young lady, who in partnership with her 7 year old son, created her own races.
Together they ran and they taught and they learned and they inspired. They did this 100 miles at a time, in their back yard and in their house and going up and down the stairs in that house - thousands of times.
Back in November of 2018, I interviewed Soles4Souls CEO, Buddy Teaster. In many ways, it's the most influential interview I've ever had on this podcast. You can listen to that first episode here:
An Interview With Ultra Runner And Soles4Souls CEO, Buddy Teaster.
In the aftermath of talking to Buddy, I did become more interested in ultra running. We talked extensively about him running his first mile in the little town of Ashland, Virginia, where I live, and how that blossomed into 100 mile races all over the country.
More importantly, though, I became committed to supporting the organization he leads.
The Lessons You Learn About Yourself Are The Real Victory In Running
In this interview, Greg Armstrong says,
"I committed a long time ago that the journey of ultrarunning, yes, it's great when you can podium or you can win or you can break a course record, but let's just face it, that's gotta be secondary. Because that pales in comparison. Me winning a race or setting a course record, that in and of itself doesn't make me a better human. It's the lessons I learn about myself along the way are what ultimately allow me to be more compassionate, a better father and husband and a better contributor to the world in which I live."