On April 30th I did one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life, I walked up to the starting line of a Spartan Beast. Anyone who has participated in a Spartan race before knows that one does not simply walk up to the starting line. One climbs over a wall and then walks.
A Spartan Beast is about 14 miles long and comprises of 30 or so obstacles. It is brutal. There’s mud, huge rocks, more mud, steep inclines, and in my case, bears. There were actual bears spotted on my course. Essentially, there’s a lot goin’ on.
Most people that participate in a Spartan go into it with either a team or a partner to make the day more manageable and to have some kind of support when the tough parts make you want to quit. I decided that I would give myself the ultimate mental test and attempt the Spartan Beast alone. I wanted to prove I could do it alone. I wanted to change my brain so that it would stop telling me I was going to fail at everything and actually encourage me. I wanted a large green medal.
Three miles into the beast and my negative attitude overwhelmed me. All the training I had been doing did not prepare me for those first three miles. I wanted to quit. I wanted someone to carry me back down the mountain, hand me off to my partner, and make him carry me back to our hotel.
I cried on that mountain. I screamed. I cursed. I asked God to deliver me through it. I asked God to forgive me for cursing so much. I did this for 9 miles.
At the fourth and fifth mile (each mile is marked) respectively, I felt different leg muscles pop as if they had torn in half. Fellow racers assured me it was just a cramp. When I reached mile nine my body knew what my mind had been telling me all along: I wasn’t going to finish the Spartan Beast. My knees could no longer handle a full range of motion, my feet had lost sensation, and my right leg was not properly sustaining the weight of my body. I laid down in the grass, cried one more time, and asked a volunteer to call the medic.
A true Spartan will read this story and see pure failure. Spartans never quit. But what I felt, while waiting for a medic to come get me off that God forsaken mountain, was not failure, it was a sense of triumph. I had traveled nine entire miles through an impossible terrain and without help I had climbed over walls I was too short to reach. I faced my fear of heights. I put in my best effort. And isn’t that what we’re all doing?
I laid down in the grass, cried one more time, and asked a volunteer to call the medic.
This race was one of the first times that I took a lesson away from failing. And it’s a lesson so many of us should grasp as early in life as possible. No one can determine my success but me. Such a simple idea that has taken me a lifetime to understand. So what I didn’t get a medal? I showed up and kicked 9 miles of ass.
Did you not get into Harvard this year? So what? You got into three other colleges. You graduated from high school. You wrote essays and filled out applications all while keeping your grades up. You had the nerve to try. Small victories are still victories. You are still an accomplished human being.
No one can determine my success but me.
Work not going how you anticipated? Well you earned that job in the first place. That’s a small victory. Broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Good, they were dead weight and it’s time for you to climb the wall.
Tell yourself to keep going, even if it hurts and even if you don’t get as far as you wanted. Trust me, you’ll get somewhere. Be the determiner of your own success. Be your own cheerleader because at some point you are going to find yourself alone facing something you don’t think you can overcome. But guess what?
You’re not just going to overcome it, you’re going to destroy it.