I planned on writing this blog post from a plane, headed to Buenos Aires. I envisioned sharing thoughts that I had in my head as I departed to the “end of the world,” Antarctica, my third stop in my World Marathon Tour for Prostate Cancer. It has been five years of planning to get to this day. Five years of convincing race directors that age is just a number, not a barrier. Instead, I will share my concerns, my fears, my goals, not from a plane, but from my home in Oregon. With less than 24 hours to go before boarding my flight, I received an email titled, “Antarctica Marathon Trip Canceled and Rescheduled – URGENT.” I was now encountered with another unplanned obstacle, another wall to climb, and another lesson in perseverance.
As I explained in my last blog with Athleta, Power to the (13-Year-Old) She, I’m on a mission. A mission to chase down prostate cancer and stomp it out like it stomped out my dad. I’m doing it not for myself, but for the one in six men around the world affected by prostate cancer. This was by far the toughest marathon to get an entry for. There are only three marathons in Antarctica and the waiting list for each can be three to four years long. Luckily, a cancellation got me in so I would be able to still achieve my dream of completing a marathon on every continent before turning 15. I was taught very young that to reach your dreams you must have a plan and set goals. I think I missed the chapter on obstacles and hurdles.
My first reaction to the news of the cancellation was “NO, that can’t be right.” I was in disbelief. My run training was peaked, my aerial skis had just been put away for two weeks, my bags were packed, my school arrangements were made, and my airport shuttle was headed my way in just hours. Flashbacks of the NYC ING marathon instantly came to my head. This fall, I had arrived in NYC and was there only minutes before learning that the marathon was canceled. Somehow, despite the disappointment, much good came out of that experience. I got to witness the aftermath of a natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy, first hand. I spent 12 hours in a relief center distributing much needed supplies in an area that was completely devastated. Just seeing the hope and gratitude on the faces of complete strangers warmed my heart. I wish I could have stayed for days to help out. It was an experience in humanity that would help shape me as a person. Now, I was left to deal with the aftermath from the news of ice damaging the one and only ship to Antarctica. Fortunately, within a few hours, the shock wore off, partly washed away by the help of a few tears.
I think many of us fail to adequately handle adversity, hurdles and obstacles. We get sad, angry, mad, and waste energy. One of my favorite quotes I have mentioned over and over is: “I believe everything happens for a reason,” spoken by Marilyn Monroe. I’m not sure what all will come from the one-month delay of my Antarctica Marathon, but I’m certain I will have much to share with you on my return in April from this rescheduled marathon. I have never been left disappointed after climbing over hurdles and barriers, just stronger and smarter. Others around me were quick to point out, that as an athlete, there will be many more hurdles in all sizes and shapes. Successful athletes have to be quick to adapt, restructure and refocus. I feel that is true whether you’re an athlete, a student, a parent, etc.
When I’m faced with obstacles and hurdles in life, there is only one guarantee. I will go over it, under it, or through it. I will do whatever it takes and as my valediction always states, “NEVER GIVE IN!” Maintaining a positive outlook and focusing on the good has served me well, even in the death of my dad. As the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death approaches (March 12th), I don’t focus on his death; I focus on what good has come out of his life, and how my brothers and I will continue to keep his spirit alive.
Yes, I’m human, and I’ve put my head under the covers and shed tears over many things; a bad test result, a not ideal athletic performance, a failed attempt. But it is brief, I pick my chin up and start planning, setting goals and moving forward. Stress damages our body in so many ways, physically and mentally. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can be our friend in ‘fight or flight’ situations but beyond brief releases, chronic cortisol release can decrease muscle tissue, lower our immunity, increase abdominal fat, and impair cognitive function. These are all bad things, especially as an athlete trying to be at the top of their game. I’ve learned the importance of developing stress management techniques such as visualization, exercise, meditation, and listening to music.
Since rescheduling my trip, I’ve spoken with my run and ski coaches. I’ve put my running shoes back on my feet and devised a modified running plan. I’ve pulled my aerial skis back out and will be back competing in the air just four days after the news of the cancellation. I find myself now preparing for Freestyle Junior National Championships, an aerial event I had thought I would miss. I feel it is important, when faced with adversity, to quickly formulate a plan and move forward. You cannot dwell on what was supposed to be and what should have been.
In the Winter’s World Marathon Tour logo, the word perseverance can be found. Someone had once used that word to describe me and so I had looked up the definition.
- Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
- Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.
It only seemed fitting to have this word present as I attempted to chase prostate cancer around the world. As already shown, this journey and dream is about perseverance. More importantly, life is all about perseverance.
Never Give In!