There is a team of remarkable people running across the United States of America- relay style, this summer with a larger goal of raising one million dollars for cancer research. A baton filled with names of people battling cancer, those who have lost the fight, and those who have prevailed - is being passed from one runner to the next, mile after mile, state after state. Most of the runners who have held the baton know someone whom cancer has directly effected, and some runners have battled it themselves.
So yesterday when I was asked if I thought I was extraordinary because I ran across the United States, solo, last year I said, “No.”
I had just finished mile 15 of my 26.2 when I was asked this question so I was fried , and I’m sure my answer at the time was something vague and confusing- so I’m going to elaborate.
During my portion of the Million Dollar Marathon I was also asked if it was annoying to me that they kept saying they were running across America (because they were doing it relay form and no one person was really running the entire way) and I laughed, because of course it didn’t bother me. When I first heard about this amazing run I thought “Man, that is kick ass, I need to be apart of it.” It was everything that running is supposed to be. It was bringing people together, it was doing good for others, it was one step at a time, it was showing that no goal is too large- but it was also showing that nothing extraordinary can be accomplished alone.
Which brings me back to why I don’t think that I am extraordinary, but I do believe the journey was.
Around 270 recorded people have crossed the United States on foot, each one with their own reason for doing so- each with their own stories to share. Some did it solo, some had a large crew, some had a small crew. But even those of us that went at it alone weren’t ever really one hundred percent alone.
Stories get swapped on the road, people get touched, lives are changed, you’ll never view the world the same again. You won’t walk away from an adventure of such proportion thinking you are extraordinary because you know you couldn’t have completed the trip if it weren’t for the support you got along the way.
It’s hard to think you are solely amazing when you are surrounded by people battling a journey that makes a run across the united states seem like a walk in the park. It’s hard to walk away from that type of life changing experience and not be humbled by it.
I am proud of myself, I am amazed by my fellow crossers, but I don’t believe my run made me extraordinary.
What I think is extraordinary is that I reached my Goal for the money I wanted to raise for Soles4Souls. I think it is extraordinary that a week before I finished my journey someone donated around $1,300 to put the donations over the brink. I think it’s extraordinary that a homeless man in Connecticut gave his last dollar to Soles4Souls. And I think the people who had my back every night to make sure I was safe are extraordinary. I think my family is extraordinary for supporting me on my journey. But above all, it’s really hard to think you are extraordinary when you are relaying 52 miles with a woman who kicked cancers ass with a smile on her face. I don’t think I’m extraordinary, because I was just running, I didn’t have any limitations or reasons for not being able to complete my journey.
I was also asked during the marathon why I thought high risk adventures like climbing Everest or a marathon were a great analogy for battling a disease like cancer. Of the top of my head I couldn’t put the words together, I’m a writer not a talker- I usually can only collect my thoughts after writing them down.
I have never battled cancer, I hope I never have to, but from what I’ve seen in life is that there is never a 100% certain outcome of anything. When my grandpa was battling cancer he had ups and downs, he was in the clear for a while, he continued to fight and he never gave up, but it still took his life. And I think that is why running and high risk adventures are a great analogy. You will never know the outcome of anything, but if you don’t try and you don’t fight your chances of prevailing are knocked down to zero. During my cross country run I wanted to give up more times than I can count, but I knew that if I didn’t fight I would never make it to the Pacific Ocean. And I think it might be the same mindset for people who have cancer.
Life happens and sometimes shitty things try to knock you down, but you have to remember that it could always be worse, and if all you do is complain about what is wrong in your life it’s not going to get any better. The easiest thing to do in the world is give up- so just don’t forget why you are fighting.
On Monday while I was running I kept squeezing the baton. Because I knew that every name in that baton fought a harder battle than the hills I was climbing, it was filled with magic powers. Those people who’s names are in the baton and the people who held the baton before me and the woman I was relaying with are the people who are truly extraordinary.