Over the years I’ve read that journaling your emotions is a positive way to get a grip on your feelings. Way back in high school I kept a running journal that recorded results and thoughts about the races in which I participated. In those days, we ran a ton of races in cross country, usually competing Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday every week for weeks on end.
That led to some burned out legs on occasion. I recall an invitational race out in Oregon, Illinois on a hilly golf course. We’d already raced twice that week and during the weekend race I hit a wall of fatigue at 1.5 miles. There was nothing left. I was just fourteen years old and running on the varsity level on three-mile courses. Our assistant coach found me kneeling on the smooth grass with an exhausted body and a guilty conscience tearing at my soul. He assured me that it was fine to fall out sometimes. “You’re doing a great job,” he assured me. Oh that more people in this world understood the merits of trying so hard that you sooner or later have to fail. The benefits of failing faster. It takes courage, but it’s worth it to find out the truth within you.
There would be many more races to come over the years. Each built character in its own way. I was fortunate to enjoy much success and win many races. But during my senior year in high school cross country season, my mother fell ill with the after effects of having given birth to four large boys. Seeing her so sick undermined my mental strength and I lost a series of races through a combination of blind effort and distraction.
The competitive struggle of living day-to-day in a maelstrom of competitive fury continued through college. There were times when I desperately wanted to let down or take it a little easier. Actually my instincts were correct on that front. We were chronically overtrained.
Post college I turned into a road runner and was largely self-coached. That meant motivation and planning had to come entirely from within. But the rewards were astounding. Winning a race with 3000 people behind you is an intense feeling.
By my late 20s I retired from competitive running and such hard training. But the lessons learned were well-entrenched. Thus when the time came to serve as a caregiver for my late wife, my high school coach called and said, “Your whole life has been a preparation for this.”
His words of advice in that crucial moment reached deep within me. It’s likely you also cherish the experiences gained through endurance sports and how they help you cope with other challenges in life.
Recently we also lost that longtime coach to lung cancer. I can tell you that he lived the example of his own words. And Life rolls on.
It will be six years since March 26, 2013 when my late wife passed away from ovarian cancer in her mid-50s. While there is happiness and love in my life thanks to family and marriage to my wonderful wife Sue, I will never forget the strength shown by Linda Mues Cudworth over those eight years of treatment. She ran a reverse race against time in many respects. She was a woman of faith who loved her garden as much as life itself. It is right and good to honor her memory. Those are positive takeaways.
I think about that as it rains in mid-March. She never liked this month all that much, but I have always liked the raw signs of anticipation of spring. The skunk cabbage pushing through nearly frozen soil. The chorus frogs already singing in ice cold water in the wetland behind our house. But the anticipation is now tempered by a date that all of us experience in different ways. So I’ll say: God Bless Her.