Yesterday, the pastor spoke about cognitive dissonance — when what we are experiencing conflicts with what we expected or believe is correct. It is that moment of discomfort or doubt that may cause us to interrupt the path we are on because the expectations of our past experiences challenges the course. Instead of trusting the directions of our vision and mission, our fears and expectations disrupt our progress.
Succeeding in the face of this conflict required us to remain resolute, trusting the path. Stay on course and don’t stray despite the conflicts in your head. Have the strength and the courage to keep moving forward on the path you are on.
This talked triggered an experience I had when I was on a quest to complete a marathon in 1990. My first marathon attempt was in Detroit in early October. I had high expectations, had trained well, and had an aggressive finishing time in mind. I was ready. Early in the race, things didn’t go as I had envisioned. The more my mind struggled, the more by body complied with the chaos. Eventually, I gave up my pursuit at around mile 19. Convinced I couldn’t finish, I dropped out of the race.
I found my family at around mile 21. I could see the surprise and disappointment in their eyes. I always was a pretty powerful, strong, and determined individual — they were shocked I bailed on my mission. It was hard to explain to them the struggle. Mainly, because I knew I had let my mind win the war of the race.
With a little encouragement from a training partner, I decided to revisit my quest and entered the Columbus Marathon that November. I treated my Detroit experience as both a training run and as a reminder that success doesn’t come from quitting.
The night before the race, I was having dinner with my family at my Dad’s house in Columbus when my daughter declared that “knowing my dad, he will probably quit again.” Ouch!! I never saw myself as a quitter; but, Sami appropriately called me on my last big failing.
Though I was already determined to cross that finish line, Sami’s challenge certainly raised the intensity of that commitment.
I had a lot of support through the race. My family caught up to me at mile 6, mile 11, and mile 16. I knew they would be at the finishing line. My sister-in-law, four months pregnant, found me at mile 15 and ran with me until mile 19. (If you knew her at all, she has never missed out on any opportunity to get in a workout — ever!)
Around mile 20 I hit the wall as all runners do. The pain, the doubt, the painfully sluggish pace of each step started to take its toll. This time I reminded myself that no matter how difficult the journey, I was going to finish. The last stretch of the race was one long three mile straightaway into a fifteen mile per hour headwind on a very cool 35 degree day. I was struggling to keep it moving. My body had started to tell my head that I was done. But, I persevered.
I looked at the skyline of distant downtown Columbus and picked out a building. I declared that I was going to get there. Somehow, someway, without stopping that was my spot. I kept moving — one very slow, difficult step at a time. The buildings got closer. My building got bigger. I could finally see the finish line. It was right in front of the building I was running towards! After three hours and fifty five minutes of non-stop running (I didn’t even stop when I grabbed water along the route), I crossed the finish line.
Immediately upon completion the exhilaration and euphoria moving through my body was competing directly with the pain that was moving up from my feet through the rest of my system. I did it! I stayed on course! I stayed focused! I kept moving!!
It isn’t always easy, especially when we are battling very loud voices from within. The key to it all — stay focused, stay committed, and keep moving on the path you have chosen despite the obstacles and the surprises and you will cross the finish line.