It’s Day 13, my first real rest day since I set out on this adventure almost two weeks ago. Over the past two weeks there have been two consistent thoughts – “this hurts,” and “what am I doing?” I guess I expected both, but they have certainly manifested in unexpected ways, but I was warned about that too – expect the unexpected.
I expected the pain to be searing, sharp, acutely overwhelming. While some of the physical pain has been, the psychological pain has been something very different. I expected to be cracked open, to have the desert and miles break the shell that keeps all the demons in. Instead it’s felt more like a slowly increasing weight, on my shoulders, in my stomach, on my heart. I’m remind of the proverb of how to boil a frog. You can’t drop the frog in the boiling water, it’ll jump right out. You set the frog in lukewarm water and slowly increase the heat. That’s what this run feels like, both metaphorically and literally.
I don’t think the reality of the task, at least not the enormity of it, has fully set in, and maybe that’s my saving grace. Nonetheless, I do find myself wondering what the hell I’m doing. On the first night, I dreamt that I was trying to dance with Riley, one of the Team Hoyt athletes, and slipped and fell into the icy ocean. People tried to help me, but as I felt them touch my legs I did not feel relief, I felt panic, I felt like they were going to pull me further under. I took a deep breath at the surface and as I sank back into the water I told myself to stay calm and do what I knew, inflate my shirt, tie my life jacket down and kick to the surface. In my dream, I swam to safety the only way I knew how, by trusting what others had taught me and my instincts. When I woke up I didn’t have to look far for the metaphor.
As to the answer to my question, I am running across the country. That’s what the hell I am doing. From day one, that is what I have been doing. We may have had van problems, I may be behind in mileage. I may feel like I can’t do it, like my gift is not enough, but that doubt puts me in a proper relationship with reality. My reality may not be what I expected, but it’s what I wanted, it is what the universe has decided I needed. I stopped at a VFW and had a drink with veterans. I woke up underneath the stars. I battled blisters. I navigated ATV trails, wadis, and even the open desert. I rolled under barbed wire fences, snapped pictures with border guards. I greeted horses, cows, and desert donkeys. I felt tired and beaten. I ran in the early morning hours while watching a desert thunderstorm. I ran away from bats. I ran by what appeared to be a baby bear. I’ve met my daily mileage goal. More often, I’ve fallen short of my daily goal. I’ve raised money and awareness. I connected with people. I ran through Native American reservations. I ran along the interstate. I cried. I cried some more. I doubted. I laughed. I doubted more. I crossed one state line. I felt the heat, the darkness, the loneliness, and even a little of the joy. I walked. I hobbled. I ran. I am walking, hobbling, running across the country – reminding myself every day that this run is not about the launch or the finish, but all the miles in between.