At almost every race I’ve been to, I have seen people who were obviously broken and emotional. You can see it in their eyes, there is a lost look on their face. They stare off into the distance, oblivious to the bustle going on around them. Their eyes are glazed over, they move delicately. Some have finisher’s medals, some have tears, but all have a new appreciation for themselves and what they can accomplish.
These are the people who have my respect, above those on the podium. The runners who come in completely broken down, who have pushed themselves to a point that they never thought possible. When you look into their eyes, you can tell. It’s like they have scared the hell out of themselves and somehow in the process, they have learned what it truly means to live life to the fullest.
There are many things to fear, but fear of preconceived limits is the worst. We have no reason to think that we can’t do something, we just need proof of what is possible. Maybe these false notions of our limits come from others, after all negativity tends to rub off and multiply. These near zombies that I see at the finish line have ignored the limiters and naysayers. They have gone out and looked for that magical wall for themselves. This deserves nothing but respect and admiration.
For centuries we have celebrated great explorers, men who scaled the highest peaks, drove into the unknown forests or sailed off to the vast oceans, not knowing when or if they would ever return. We’ve idolized humans who have driven the boundaries of technology further than we thought we could ever achieve. I think that we should put the people who have explored their personal limits, and perhaps moved them, on the same pedestal.
There are times when a person hits a limit that they cannot overcome, the mental or physical demands are just too much. The task is just too strenuous to overcome. They scratch and claw to get past it, but to no avail. Some would see this as a failure, but is it failing when you have found what you’re looking for?
This journey is one of the most personal, internal struggles we face. Others can guide us or they go on their own journey that parallels ours, but in the end we must face these barriers on our own. We can have mentors counsel us, but the deep, dark trenches of our minds are our own territory to battle through.
The beauty of watching someone push these limits is that you get to see a newer, greater version of that person emerge. It’s not like looking at a baby, who is a blank slate, full of possibilities. It’s much deeper than that. Like an entirely new soul being built from the ashes and recycled materials of the old one.
If done right, this is a never ending process. We will continue to push our internal limits, growing and evolving in the process. When we do find that point that cannot be overcome, that permanent boundary, we just turn and go another direction finding another way around that wall.
So the ones who are brought to tears at the finish line, whether of pain or of joy, are the ones who deserve our respect. The ones who limp in long after the awards are over, after the winner is home, they are the true victors.