Last week, someone asked me if I had any races coming up, and I said, “Yes, this Saturday, I’m running a 12-hour race solo.”

He just looked at me and said, “Don’t you ever do half-marathons or something simple like that?”

I laughed and realized it does sound a little crazy when you say it out loud.  To run, without stopping, which was my plan, for 12 hours does seem a little over the top.  But really, why does anyone do anything that’s hard or over the top?  Why do people push themselves to do seemingly strange or impossible things?  Basically, it’s just to prove we can.

I had no aspirations to win the race this past Saturday.  Shoot, I hadn’t even properly trained.  I probably had no business signing up in the first place.

I wanted to run because I just turned 40, and I wanted to run at least 40 miles… just to say I did it. 

I could have signed up for a 40 mile race, but then there would have been the pressure to race.  In a 12-hour run, I could just start, keep moving, and stop when the clock ran out.  I wanted to see how much ground I could cover in a set period and then, have a little fun along the way to boot.

I didn’t worry about racing or winning.  I just set off on a long run through the woods by myself.

I’m finding that the older I get, the more I enjoy just being by myself– alone with my thoughts in the woods.  I like the solitude.

I also find that I’m constantly moving towards enjoying the trip as much as the destination.  This is a biggie for me since I often spend way too much time waiting for things to be over.  Sometimes, when I’m working on something or I’m in the middle of a project, I find myself thinking, “I can’t wait for this to be done.”  I’m realizing more and more (again, maybe it’s an age thing) that this is a horrible waste of time.  Before we know it, it will ALL be over, and how will we have spent the time?

I know that I spend far too much of my mine worrying and looking ahead to the next thing.  There is great value in learning to slow down and enjoy the moment.  These are such simple concepts, no-brainers if you will, yet they often seem to allude me as I’m sure they do others.

My past two really long-distance races have been less than pleasant.  I raced too soon, let my mind carry me to that “just get it done” place and missed some of the goodness that comes from being a participant in a really long race.  This time, I purposely stopped during the first lap and began walking as everyone, it seemed, in America passed me by. 

I knew that I needed to let go of what others around me were doing.  I needed to let go of getting through it.  After all, 12 hours is a long time.  To worry about the finish line so early on would have been mental suicide.

By the end of the day, I had covered 43.4 miles.  I met lots of interesting and friendly people, all with their own reasons for running into the woods that day.  I saw baby rabbits playing in the grass and heard birds in the trees.  I felt the sun on my face and the welcome coolness of the breeze.  I saw the moon rise up, round and bright, in the sky.  I listened to music.  I ran with different members of my family who dropped in from time to time just to keep me company.  I prayed.  I thought about stories I want to write.  I dreamed up new art in my head.  I listened to the sound of my own breath.  And all the time, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

As I crossed the finish line at 11 hours and 40 minutes, I felt good- strong, proud of myself, and absolutely clear.  I did not regret having walked when I needed to or not pushing myself to finish before I was ready.  I had enjoyed the whole thing– all of it.

And I did it just to prove I could.