Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hidden Beauty - Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 Miler - Part 3

[Part 1 is here.]
[Part 2 is here.]

Miles 32 through 40 - Hidden Beauty
Sitting on the cold, plastic seat in the port-o-potty at the mile 32 aid station, my legs began to cramp. I had made it to the second "start" of the race, only to be sidelined by my own stupidity. Too many cookies about 6 hours earlier, combined with gluten intolerance, had left me a cramping, irritable bowel inflicted mess at mile 32. Uncle Uwharrie paced impatiently on the other side of the door.

"Get off the pot, boy!" said Uncle Uwharrie. "This ain't gonna get easier if you sit there. You stay in there much longer, and you're done."

He was right, of course. He was always right. My legs were shutting down with each squatting second. So, still cramping and miserable I emerged from the crapper to find my friend, and super volunteer, Harold, waiting with a warm cup of soup broth in hand. I sipped it slowly and had a few corn chips in an attempt to settle my stomach.

I'm not mad here, just miserable.
Photo courtesy of Harold.
I thanked Harold and the other volunteers and began a slow walk down the trail. Uncle Uwharrie was with me nearly all the time now. I needed him for sure. Each step I took was farther than I had ever run before, and more painful than even my worst marathons.

"Run now, before it's too late" warned Uncle Uwharrie. "Run now, or  you'll be walking these last 8 miles!"

I ran a few steps, but had to stop. Each step was like having my lower abdomen smashed with a hammer. My legs slowly loosened from the stop at the aid station, and when the bowel pain had settled a bit, I tried to run again. It still hurt like hell.

"Keep trying!" urged Uncle Uwharrie. "Don't you dare quit!"

I kept trying, and within a mile or so, my stomach settled and I was running again, slowly. But I was mentally exhausted. All I could think was "Almost 8 more miles of this hell! I hate this damn ugly, brutal trail! I'm not going to make it."

It was then that Uncle Uwharrie gave me the best advice of the day.

"You're thinking about it all wrong, boy! Don't think about the pain, that's just part of this place. Don't think about the last miles. Don't even think about the next hill. Just think about the next step" said Uncle Uwharrie. "The next step, nothing else!"

So, I did. I kept my eyes down and concentrated on the next step, and only the next step. Picking my way though the uncountable number of roots, rocks and holes along the trail kept my mind occupied. I stopped thinking about the exhaustion, and the pain.

The further I ran, the better I felt. The veil of exhaustion and ugliness fell from my eyes, and I started seeing the beauty of Uwharrie again. Was I miserable? Definitely. But that didn't matter any longer. I was going to finish, and I knew it! The pain was just part of the experience. I was glad to simply be alive and moving through the beauty of Uwharrie. Happy for the fleeting chance to dance once more across the ancient stage.

This happy at the finish.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Johnstone.

How do you find beauty in even the most miserable moments of life? Simple, you look for it. Not that the misery of life can necessarily be overcome by beauty, but sometimes just looking at the world through a different lens can cause some of life's inevitable pain to fade from view, to be replaced with a hidden beauty.