Strength is a funny word. When you look up the definition, brawny and well-built are among the list of descriptors, those, and one’s ability to move heavy weights around. But the strongest people I know have never set foot in a gym.
When I think of the word strength, it’s less about a physical quality and more about a mental one. Having strength is less about the ability to move quickly up a mountain and more about the tenacity to challenge yourself and not give up when things get hard.
This past weekend I competed at the Triple Crown at the Broken Arrow Skyrace – competing in all three events over the weekend. Each held a unique challenge. The VK is basically a sprint up the mountain – tasting blood during this event can be quite normal (in my experience). The 52K race the next day was more in my wheelhouse, but the 26K on the last day is what really scared me – a fast, short race – usually it takes me 26K to warm up! I knew doing all three races would require a different type of strength, not only for each distant, but on a whole.
So why did I decide to do it? I’m a firm believer in doing things that scare you – well, not physically scare you (I hate scary movies and haunted houses for Halloween) – I’m talking doing something that you’re not sure you can do. I think there is value in pushing your limits. Why? Because every time I do, I learn something about myself.
Amidst all the racing during the Broken Arrow Skyrace weekend, I got to talk to a lot of people, and the one thing everyone had in common was strength. People were doing their first trail race, the longest distance they had ever run, or a race with the most elevation gain, some people had never done a VK and they tackled it head on. Families were there supporting their loved ones who were going after personal bests, or running the furthest they had ever run since injury. I felt inspired, motivated and stronger walking around the race venue and village – and no, my muscles weren’t growing, but my motivation certainly was. I could feel the collective strength of the community.
You’re stronger than you think you are – that’s the biggest take away I have from racing the Triple Crown – we all are. What we need are opportunities to try on, and test out this strength. For a lot of us in the trail running world, it starts with lacing up our shoes and heading for the door. I think running is the best way to find and explore our inner strength – but don’t forget what you possess. We might discover hidden strength out on the trails or city streets, but these qualities transcend more than just running. They can be pretty useful in the ‘real’ world, when the obstacles aren’t big hills or rocky descents. It’s a mantra and belief system I can take anywhere I go, to tackle any challenge I confront – you’re stronger than you think you are.