A good friend of mine asked me to speak to a group of teens who are graduating from drug treatment and juvenile drug court. I’ve been thinking about this over the last week trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between the teens and me. I know that I can’t walk in there as the attorney and ultrarunner that I’ve become. If I cannot bridge the gap, nothing I say will even register in their minds.
But I haven’t always been an attorney and ultrarunner. My specific pits of despair are very similar to those kids including substance abuse, living on the streets, running away from home, drug dealing, teen pregnancy, teen motherhood, high school dropout, gangs, and more.
Life has never been along the straight and narrow path for me. Life has never been along the straight and narrow path for me. The one thing I have in common with them is their struggle. The struggle for life and the discovery of self-purpose.
So many of our teens lose their belief in themselves, it flies out the window along with their ability to dream ambitious and crazy childhood goals. I prevailed over my struggles because I rediscovered my belief in myself and one other person never lost her belief in me, my mom. I have found that the farther you go in search of who you are, the farther you get from it, because it’s right where you started from in the first place.
Reigniting the fire of their dreams and childhood goals can be very difficult. However, it is easier than rebuilding their belief in themselves. One little talk from me is not going to leave them with a fully reconstructed self. It might, if done right, lay a brick in the foundation, if I’m lucky.
What I can give them is an external anchor until they rediscover themselves. I can show them that it’s possible to come back, to rise against all the odds stacked against them. Running, for me, is a confirmation of my inner strength and determination to continually face my fears and never back down from the struggle.
Long distance running is a metaphor for life. You chose to get out of bed and face your run, sometimes not knowing the route you are about to head down. At times, it is dark, and you can’t see what or who is coming from the other way.
You come to the foot of a hill or a mountain, and you chose the best or worst path to take, up and over. Sometimes it is too big, and you decide to try to go around which results in you being utterly lost. Puddles appear, and you happily splash through them or skip around them to avoid the miserableness of soggy feet.
At twenty miles, you hit the infamous wall. Your mind is telling your body it cannot go another step, but you do, and you get stronger. After a mile, you feel your strength return. You hit another wall at thirty miles and then forty miles. You know they will keep coming, but you know you can keep going because you have done it all before.
Some days you hit your zone gliding on top of the world, flying down hills, or floating over the mountains. Some days you trip over rocks, roots, and your own feet, falling on your face. But, you stand back up, and keep going. Life has its mountains and walls. You choose how to deal with each, and sometimes you glide, on top of the world.