Saturday, February 9, 2013

Great Advice After a Very Tough Week

Strength for Climbing

Thank you for hills and strength for climbing.

January 31, 2013
Media: Love Those Hills
This week the unspeakable happened.
A friend lost her son.
You know the kind of moment where you hear news and you have to sit down for a few minutes, your equilibrium gone? It wasn't even my news, but the shock waves reverberating from her heart through the concentric circles of friendship that brought word to me were high enough on the emotional Richter scale to sink me slowly into a chair, head in my hands. Breathe. In. Out.
The unspeakable. The unplanned. The unimaginable. The sucker punches thrown by life, when we don’t even get a breath to squeeze and brace for it. How do we fathom news like this? How do we go on with the routine of life, aware of someone’s devastation? How do we muster the courage to love deeply when love can cause so much pain? How do we best share our strength to ease another’s burden?
There was no mistake that our training yesterday morning was a hill workout. I arrived early and parked my car at the base of the hill. I warmed up, occasionally glancing at the hill, not really feeling it but wanting to give myself time to make peace with the effort ahead – 5-7 climbs. This particular hill is such a beast, the kind you love to hate, hate to love. Hills, when properly recognized and tended to, can be like good friends - spending time together simply makes you better.
Since I was early, I ran the first 5 alone - just me, God, and the trashcans.
When I am alone on a hill, without the banter or panting of my comrades to distract me, I need a mantra. I need to find my zone, my rhythm. I need to distract myself from the suffering, but not from the effort. The effort I need to feel. One of my favorite hill mantras is, “Thank you for hills and strength for climbing.” The syllables are just right, the rhythm works, and it gives me the dose of gratitude I need to find pleasure (sort of) in my purpose. Five ascents, I said it over and over and over. Then I ran it twice more with comrades, still grateful, perhaps even more so because I had good company.
Later when I got the news, sitting in my kitchen with my head in my hands, the same words came to me, like I was having a flashback. Thank you for hills and strength for climbing.
No, we can never prepare for sucker punches. No, we will never be ready when a left hook jabs us out of nowhere and renders us windless and reeling. But we can make a deliberate decision to get stronger. We can choose the challenging route. We can choose friends who call us higher. We can surround ourselves with growth minded people, seekers, try-ers, lovers, and adventurers. We can choose to nurture and nourish our spirits. We can fix our minds on worthy thoughts and pursuits. We can take steps in the direction of fortitude, even before we are called to endure. Our resulting strength can offer shelter and respite for others.
Training is never in vain.
Thank you God for hills, and strength for climbing.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss, Amy. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  2. Sorry for your loss :(

    Perhaps you could find a way to honor him at the PHM in a couple of weeks and dedicate that to him? During my training for the 2011 PHM (my first half) I thought alot about my little brother that we lost in 2003 during my loooong, difficult training runs. It inspired me to give him a little tribute...on the back of my shirt for that race I ironed on his initials in rhinestones flanked by angel wings and a halo above the letters...sort of my way of bringing him along for the ride and a "thanks" for helping me zone out through those miles. Also, my BF dedicated his first full marathon to his late grandmother by having her name printed on a pair of custom shoe laces that he found online and wore for the race. Regardless, I know you'll be thinking of him and he'll be watching you cross the finish line!

    1. Thank you very much Summer! These are great idea. I am going to think of a way to do something like this. I appreciate you sharing this with me!