“It’s not a G*d damn nature walk, Mel!” Those words were aggressively (and carelessly) spilled on a trail somewhere in Eagle Creek Park around mile 10 of 13.1 miles. P was the giver. I was the receiver. And I can still hear them clearly nearly 6 years later. I had signed up for a half-marathon with some of my friends even though I hated running. We both knew it. But I did it anyway. So, imagine the thoughts I must have had when I woke up the day before said half-marathon and I was sick. I couldn’t stop coughing. My chest was screaming at me with every breath. There was not a chance in hell, though, that I was going to NOT run this thing. I had been enduring weeks of “why would you sign up for this when you hate running?” This was now a pride thing. It was a “I’ll show you” opportunity.
Well, you can probably guess how it went by the “nature walk” comment. I was dying. Okay, not dying, but I felt terrible. Every step was a struggle. Every breath was surely my last (turns out I had bronchitis). I kept telling P to just go ahead and run his race, but he wouldn’t leave me behind (sweet, huh? *insert sarcastic tone). At least not too far behind. So, around mile 10, I finally found myself running alone and I was relieved because, at last, I wasn’t holding him back. I slowed down to basically a walk. I was feeling some relief. Until I saw him. Standing in the middle of the trail glaring at me. And then the now infamous words, “It’s not a G*d damn nature walk, Mel!” And he was right. It wasn’t.
This past weekend I put 1,000 miles on my car driving to visit friends in Alabama. By the time the month is over I will have put on another 2,000 miles between a second trip to Alabama and a trip to Georgia. As someone said yesterday, I am putting in the miles. Miles that are not all that different from the miles I put in that day in Eagle Creek Park nearly six years ago. You might be wondering how I could possibly make a comparison between a 13.1 mile trail race and 3,000 miles driven in a car. It’s pretty simple.
You see, the miles that day connected me to something important. People. And not just any people, but people I hold close to my heart. I didn’t sign up to run 13. 1 miles because I loved running; I signed up because I loved my friends. It wasn’t so much about the race as it was a chance to be outside, doing something active with people I loved.
The same holds true for putting in 3,000 miles in one month. I don’t do it because I love sitting in a car for hours and hours (though I actually don’t mind it.) I do it because those miles connect me to some of my dearest friends. And amazing experiences that we share. Experiences that feed my soul. And sometimes pull me from the edge of the cliff.
I need those miles. All 3,013.1 of them. Each one is significant. Each one brings me closer to what I need. And, ultimately, to what I want. So even when the miles hurt or I get weary from the drive, I put in the miles. From Burlington, Iowa to Rome, Georgia to Chicago, Illinois…every mile I have traveled has been a worthwhile one. My soul has been refilled, my strength renewed, and the bonds of friendship made stronger.
I don’t know where the miles I put in will ultimately lead me, but P was right. It wasn’t a G*d damn nature walk that day. It was so much more. It just took me a while to figure that part out.