Monday, April 28, 2014

The Extra Mile

"All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hour's toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers." ~Henry David Thoreau
One mile.  5,280 feet. 1,760 yards. 63,360 inches.  15-20 minutes of your life.  Sounds easy enough, right?  It's far from impossible for most people. I mean, anyone can do a mile. 
Unless that mile is at the end of 12.1 others.  After already completing 63,888 steps.  Then that last mile may as well be a million.  Every footfall is an argument with yourself.  Testing your will to see if you will give up or go on.  Your will gives up long before your body ever will.  And you can even push yourself past that point and survive.  I know - I did it.
The medic van followed our group.  We were the last ones allowed to finish.  About a dozen of us that persevered and didn't give in to the temptation to just ride to the end.  It would have been so easy just to do.  The van was right there; ice cold Gatorade and a plush seat just waiting to transport me to the finish line.  I fought that urge every mile past mile 7.   Glanced at that van and just wondered, "what if?"
But I wanted that medal.  That damned medal.  It wasn't much, really.  5.9 oz of some cheap metal painted to look like cowboy boots.  But that medal was a symbol for everything I have given up on these past few years - including myself.  I couldn't stop now.  I just had to keep pressing on.  If I got on that van, I would make it to the finish but I wouldn't earn that medal.
Step after step.  Houses and buildings became a blur.  Each movement forward brought me one step closer to that finish.  My new friend Rachel and I taking turns wanting to give up.  Our bodies were well past exhaustion.  Our will power gone - thank goodness never at the same time or we might still be sitting on the side of the road.  We pushed ourselves further than we ever had.  Then we pushed some more.  Legs cramped.  Hands swelled.  Muscles twinged and gave out.  And yet we still walked.
After mile marker 10, the signs disappeared.  We wouldn't see another one until 13.  Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  We had no way of judging exactly how far we had left.  So therefore, we had no way to know how much more sweat and soul we would have to leave on the pavement.  
At 11 1/2, someone told us we only had a mile and a half to go.  One mile and some change.  Less than 8,000 steps and we could be done.  It no longer mattered if we were the last people to cross.  It didn't matter that the water tables and musicians had long since packed up and left little behind but some trash.  The only thing that mattered to us was crossing that finish line.  
I couldn't even tell you what the scenery looked like during those last miles.  I'm still not entirely sure I walked it.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Every single movement I made was done with the intention of moving in a forwardly direction and reaching the finish line.  I took the shortest route possible.  I skipped stopping for refreshments so I wouldn't waste any precious steps.  I just kept moving.  I just did. 
So, that's how I managed to make it through that extra mile.  I never before pondered what that meant.  Now I know.  It's going when every fiber of your being screams that it's ok to stop.  And taking the next step.  And the next.  And yet another.  It's not riding the bus the last few miles to the finish line.  It's you becoming battered and bruised and still going forward.  And it's you crumbling in a puddle of tears at the end knowing that no matter how many lies you told yourself, you did it.  You finally finished.  It's sitting on the curb amongst the dirt and trash and weeds and never feeling more amazing and beautiful.  Knowing there are still many steps in front of you that you have yet to take and also knowing that there will never be any more important than the ones you just completed.  Because you finished.  Because if I ever had hope to face the rest of my future, I needed to finish.  And I did. 


  1. Most of life is accomplished like this last mile, putting one foot in front of the other and just doing it. Thanks for this reminder.

  2. Michele!! I'm so proud of you! I often say I could never run a 1/2, but you inspire me. Way to go, girl!!!

  3. You are awesome!!! Your story sounds like mine when I did the Pittsburgh 1/2 Marathon a few years ago. Mile 9 I wanted to sit down in the street. LOL It's quite an accomplishment and you should be VERY proud of yourself!!!

  4. One foot in front of another... every day... every challenge.

  5. This is amazing Michele! I'm so proud of you. You are amazing!
    "It's going when every fiber of your being screams that it's ok to stop." So good

  6. Congrats! I am not sure I am could do a 1/2 Marathon but maybe I can start small and work my way up. And then just keep moving like you did!

  7. Congratulations! You so perfectly described the temptation to hop on that van, too.... I've totally been there :)

    And Becca - RunDisney is your friend! I swore I'd never run but my first half was so much fun I've run more races since, including (barely surviving) a full. You can do it!

  8. Love this and that you didn't get into the van. So proud of you and what you accomplished! Awesome. Pushing yourself out of that comfort zone feels great (afterwards definitely). Congratulations!