A Ramble About Suffering

We were talking with some friends recently about the hard times in life. Peaks and valleys kind of stuff. Good seems to follow bad and bad seems to follow good and it’s hard to remember the other when in the midst of one. That kind of stuff.

Michelle and I expressed that we both grew up with a general belief that life was supposed to get better and easier and more comfortable. As we’ve encountered difficulty it’s shaken up our individual beliefs and assumptions about how life was supposed to work. A friend expressed that he feels like much of life is spent in valleys and that we waste much of our lives by wishing we weren’t in the valley instead of walking in and through it.

This lead to a conversation about suffering. The value of suffering. The lessons, strength, growth, and power that can only be gained through suffering. We can’t avoid our way to a stronger anything. We can’t be comfortable and get stronger at the same time. “Beast Mode” is not found on the couch.

In physical terms, exercise actually breaks down muscles that then become stronger by rebuilding. That’s why there can be some pain. That’s why recovery and rest are important.

Every time I’ve run a new distance, gone farther than I have before, my next “normal” distance run is faster. I can actually feel that my body is stronger. But that new distance is always achieved by suffering for it. Even going one mile further than you ever have before will involve some sort of suffering. Maybe mental, maybe physical, maybe emotional; but rest assured, the price for new strength is suffering.

And yet we want to avoid suffering. I am as guilty of this as anyone. Probably more guilty than many. I seek comfort. I want things to be easy. This is not at all intended as a lecture from me. If anything, it’s for me.

We need to stop thinking that suffering is bad. We need to learn to stay in it when it hurts. We need to learn how to live well even in the valleys because the only way out of a valley, the only way to reach any summit, is to climb. And climbing is a struggle. If you struggle long enough it just might be called suffering.

Without suffering there is no growth. There are no new heights; no new distances. In the moment it may not be fun and it definitely isn’t easy, but we need a bigger view than that.

I think we need others around us who have that bigger view too. Think about it, on your own it’s a run. In a group it’s a race; an event. Somehow when everyone is in it we all win in the end. The strong ones inspire and push the ones who are suffering and seeing those suffering souls continue to push on inspires the strong to keep pushing themselves.

I’m starting to ramble.

Suffering isn’t bad. We shouldn’t suffer alone.

What do you think?

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Happy Halloween

I remember when Michael Jackson released “Thriller.” Back when the video was on MTV…because Music Television actually played…music. I ran across this acoustic cover of “Thriller” when Carlos Whittaker posted it to RagamuffinSoul.com.

It’s. Insane.

Happy Halloween. Boo!

 

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The Maryland Double + My First Marathon = DONE!

The 2013 Baltimore Running Festival. My first full marathon. Done.

Running this completed my goal of achieving the Maryland Double this year: half marathon at the Frederick Running Festival and either the half or the full at the Baltimore Running Festival. I went with the full. (Here’s how the half went, in case you missed it back in May.)

26.2 miles. 4 hours, 52 minutes, 14 seconds. For my first venture I’m very proud of that finish. I had this odd experience about a mile in. I was pacing exactly where I wanted to be, but all of a sudden I just wanted to finish well. Finish strong. I had over 25 miles of unknown experiences ahead of me and I just wanted to be sure that I endured it all and crossed the finish line knowing I did my absolute best for the whole time I was out there. Mission accomplished.

Some people write great race recaps. I am not one of those people. I really enjoy reading someone’s recap and seeing how they navigated the logistics and details of race day, but writing one becomes a stressful experience for me once the OCD, or ADD, or… PTSD? AC/DC? OPP? You know me. I don’t know. Whatever my issues are. Once they kick in I start freaking out about whether to include this detail or that detail and then everything gets wacky.

So here’s my version of a recap. It’s more about what I learned and observed than what I actually did.

A few thoughts in no particular order:

• It isn’t possible to train too hard. Yeah, yeah, I know it is. Technically. Be smart. But really, it’s not. The harder you train, the more ready you are and the easier the recovery. Example: other than sore muscles and a crazy toe nail I felt good. It took a couple days for the soreness to go away and it seems like it took a few more days to feel rested again (I was constantly tired), but relatively speaking, training as hard as I could lead to a speedy recovery. It works like that in life too. Train hard and recovery after a struggle will be fast and easy. And maybe even a little fun.

• Never miss the opportunity to run a hill. Hills throughout training provide additional conditioning that will prove beneficial during the main event. If we miss the opportunity to run a life hill – to struggle and focus and push – we are missing conditioning that will benefit us down the road.

• It’s the middle part that really sucks. My experience matched up almost exactly with everything I read and heard. Imagine that. Somewhere between miles 17/18 and 21/22ish, everything gets very much bad. The advice? Find a way to keep going. Slow down, speed up, crawl, log roll, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter as long as forward motion is involved. Just. Don’t. Stop.

• “We’re total strangers but I am so proud of you.” I saw this sign a couple of times around the course. It surprised me how much power that phrase carried. “I am so proud of you.” I needed to hear that. It was a gift. Who needs to hear that from me? Who can I give that gift to?

• Always make it home. This has been one of those odd phrases that stuck in my head at some point during training. Part motivation, part safety reminder, it kept me focused at various times. It also hit me that I have the most incredible home waiting on the other side of the finish line. I couldn’t have done any of this without Michelle’s love, support, and encouragement. She and TheBoys waited near the finish line so I got to see them and high five them all just before crossing. Talk about a meaningful moment and a true gift. (Thank you!)

The Baltimore Sun thought it was pretty cool that Michelle and TheBoys came down too. They were interviewed as part of a feature on the festival. In case you missed it, here’s their experience from that day including a link to the article.

So now what? Great question. I will do another marathon; the only real question is when. I’m in the process of looking ahead to 2014 and setting some goals. I’ve got a lot of things swirling so we’ll have to see.

Just on case you’re into this level of detail, here’s a link to the 2013 Baltimore Marathon course and here’s some neat information on the course highlights.

This was physically and mentally the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was a fantastic and oddly spiritual experience that feels difficult to describe. Knowing that Michelle and TheBoys were on the other side of the finish line (figuratively and literally) meant that I won before I started. The lessons learned from training and completing the race are still sinking in and I have a feeling I’ll continue to draw parallels.

I’m still figuring out what’s next. How about you?

What’s next?

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Marathon – Finish Results

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Marathon:

Krister Dunn at the FINISH in 4:52:14.

Pace 11:09 min/Mile.
Time of Arrival: 12:53:35.

Presented By CSE.

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Marathon – Split Results

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Marathon:

Krister Dunn at the 18.8 Mile in 3:11:05.

Pace 10:10 min/Mile.
Estimated Finish Time: 4:26:29.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 12:27:50.

Presented By CSE.

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Marathon – Split Results

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Marathon:

Krister Dunn at the 13.1 Mile in 2:03:43.

Pace 9:27 min/Mile.
Estimated Finish Time: 4:07:25.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 12:08:46.

Presented By CSE.

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Marathon – Split Results

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Marathon:

Krister Dunn at the 5.7 Mile in 48:27.

Pace 8:30 min/Mile.
Estimated Finish Time: 3:42:48.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 11:44:09.

Presented By CSE.

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