My bike is dusty and the tires flat. I find an expired Honey Stinger energy treat and decide the date is just “suggested” and okay for consumption. It’s been 4 months since I’ve rode. I’m with my good friend who just recovered from foot surgery. It’s been even longer since she’s been on the bike. She laughs at the condition of my bike. “You may need to clean that dusty chain off before we head out,” she suggests. After a quick clean and oil, we push off. We are both excited to just be pedaling out some miles together. By the end of my ride, I am wondering when we can go out again. I am wondering what race to enter.
I have trained for a good many endurance events. I have completed six marathons, ran a few trail races, trenched through mud runs, biked a century, finished a triathlon and pushed through those crazy 200-mile running relays. Every finish line crossed brings on a different emotion. I have cried for joy. I have cursed for pain. I have barfed for relief of over-exertion… yes, right there as I crossed the finish line of the Long Beach Marathon. Crossing the finish line is a rush. Feelings of accomplishment, strength and empowerment take over. And just as soon as I’m finished, there are thoughts about what’s next…. what race to enter next.
Training for a marathon takes time, commitment and dedication. And it usually involves a few training partners. Some runs can get pretty long… four hours of running side by side can build some powerful friendships. I use to run with a small running group every weekend. Some mornings we would start before dawn. As the sweat pours, so do our hearts. We open up and share our lives piece-by-piece. Divorce, marriage, adoption, birth and death of loved ones all lived through our years of training runs. There have been times when I have had to stop and wipe my eyes of tears – sometimes from sadness and others from laughter. Our fears, frustrations, goals and dreams… voiced with each stride forward.
I had the same experience training for Bike MS, a ride in which funds are raised to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I rode 100 miles the first day followed by another 50 the second. Once again, I had to train. And training on a bike takes even more time! As I trained with my dear friend our friendship strengthen with each ride. Hours on the bike accompanied with deep discussions on what true love is, how to truly help the homeless, how our attention determines our reality and discussions on the practical… how to change a bike tire (because we had changed many).
What I discovered is that while crossing the finish line is a rush, there is no rush to the finish line. The real enjoyment comes from the training. The discipline, the dedication and the friendships created. Crossing the finish line is just passing the test – your training is where all the growth and learning occurs.
As I teach meditation and mindfulness, I often reflect on the training I’ve completed for races. We are often focused on the finish line, thinking that once we get “there” life will be grand. Once I get the dream job, big house, or lose those last 5 pounds, all will be perfect. The problem is, once we get “there,” we enter another race. We never seem to have enough medals. Now we want the job with the corner office, the larger house by the beach and heck… losing another 5 pounds would be great. Then life will really be perfect. We are always striving, striving, striving. And in that striving, we are forgetting that the best part of our live in now. The best part is today in the training – that is when we are growing, extending ourselves and creating friendships.
And that is what I realized I had missed. That is why I wanted to enter another race. It wasn’t about getting another medal. It wasn’t about rushing to the finish line. It was just about the training – the daily grind of training. There will always be another race to enter. And I will certainly enter it, but I will be sure to enjoy each day in the training. Because each day is a training in this race of life, a day already perfect. The present, the here, the now. Each day to be enjoyed.