There is a warrior inside us all. Hunched down low, eyes focused, primed to rise at a moment’s notice. It’s the spirit we had at one point in our lives. Maybe when we were young and carefree, running wild through the woods, along the ocean or down city streets. It is always there. We now choose rather to unleash it or to keep it tame.
I found endurance athletics in late 2007. It saved me during a time I was headed down the wrong path. Nights fueled with alcohol prompted decisions at a time when I was immaturely angry at the world. I was not clear on the vision of who I was, and what I was going to accomplish in my life. When I looked in the mirror, I was not happy with the face I saw. I was at a low point in my life. Maybe you can remember that time, or perhaps currently going through that difficult period? Either way, we rise.
Running became a source of strength to rebound. Race after race, I lost weight, cut out the cigarettes and significantly lessoned my alcohol consumption. I made fewer mistakes. Being free to charge forward on the streets paved the way to being free in the woods and mountains. The warrior inside began to rise. There was certainly an animalistic instinct; be it a deer, a bear, or a lion, to be able to have that freedom. As the distances got longer, and the pain at times became greater, in my mind it was my calling. My duty, to honor those who did not have that opportunity to live long enough to find the warrior in the mirror.
Injury in 2009 slowed the warrior, again. “Now what?” I had my chance to rise again with the English Channel in 2010, and for the remaining ‘Oceans Seven’ channel swims through 2013. I got back into ultra-distance running in 2014, but then fractured my tibia in 2016, which sidelined me through 2017. Again, I hit some personal low points in 2018-2020 yet was able to rise once again. Then COVID hit. All races were cancelled, no gyms were open, the pools were closed, and the world seemed to grind to a halt. My kids and I were at home every day, I worked full-time from home, and yet was able to fulfill the warrior spirit by exploring the mountains around southern California. They were simply beautiful, and the opportunity for adventure was wide open once again.
Many of us have been through a few storms in our lives – some more powerful than others. The flame we carry in each of us is enough to light up the sky, even if momentarily it has been extinguished. When you look in the mirror, where is that fire in your life? Is the warrior inside you running free, or are you using excuses to tame your true ability? The spark of life we help create in each other along the journey is the fire that keeps us going strong through uncertain times. Although our burden is heavy, our eyes are tired and our steps can slow to a halt, always remember you are capable to continue through the darkness.
There is a certain intensity I chose to live with. I was never one for fear. I knew only how to charge forward into the unknown. It is how I solved some of the most difficult valleys I faced in life. I know that strategy isn’t for everyone, but the more you see the warrior in the mirror, the more challenges you will charge forward with. It is a snowball effect. I certainly did not have the mindset I have today many years back, as it was forged over time through these challenges; both those I chose to put myself in, and those I found placed in my way. Through it all, I forged the mindset to know that anything is within my grasp if I just woke the warrior in the mirror. I was not born with it. It was developed over a timeline because I chose to not live a wasted journey.
There are those among us who choose to make excuses. The valleys of their lives get the best of them. I understand how that feels. It’s tough – I am certainly not discounting what you are going through. But as we are aware, those excuses are simply due to being afraid; of failure, of pain or of how others will judge us. Take it on the chin and accept it as an excuse. Move forward. I don’t care how long it takes, just keep moving forward. 5-minutes a day, then 10, then 15, but keep moving forward with whatever steps it takes to achieve the goal you have in your sights. You know you have that time, so anything else is an excuse.
We are all guilty of throwing up personal walls to prevent us from completing something difficult. I have seen it in marathon swimming, and ultra-running, when someone I am competing with quits. They don’t quit because their body cannot continue, they quit because their mind, and the pain, got the best of them. These pain barriers prompt the brain to rapidly fire 100s, if not 1000s of reasons over a defined period as to why I could quit. In my experiences, I found many reasons as to how I could ease my way out of anything. I could probably write an elaborate post about how I gave it my best, but something randomly sidelined me. You’d probably even believe me. Don’t worry, you’ll never find that post published. If I quit, I’d tell you about it.
Yes, injury does happen. Yes, Mother Nature does sometimes win, but for the 99% rest of the time, we quit because we are afraid of the pain to continue; pain of failure, the pain our body is enduring or the pain of being judged. Pain is how we grow. But the one pain we simply cannot have, is the pain of regret. Don’t be that person who quits and have severe regret the next day. That also has a snowball effect. If you quit, you learn to continue quitting when it is tough. How will you think of yourself tomorrow if you gave up today?
The next time you look in the mirror, remember to smile – even when it hurts. Smile when you are cast aside, smile when you are bullied, smile when you are physically being beaten. Smile when someone is judging you falsely. You smile because you have the chance to make that change. You have that chance to breathe another breath and know that the world is not going to get the best of you. Smile because you know this is a temporary period that will change. You will never be them. You will never accept their life. You will never stoop to their level of weakness.
You have been given another day to continue being that spark for someone who needs you. You want to know what I get excited about? LIFE. Especially during the times when it is brutally difficult. Waking up every day with a challenge on my plate and a goal in my sights. What other choice do we have? Live in misery, and wallow in sadness? Not for me, and it is certainly not for you. I am grateful for those who have provided me with a spark; both here today, and those watching down from above.
Your light will forever guide me through the darkness.