Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Go the Distance - The Event

It’s been over a month since Go the Distance and I still have not sat down and put my thoughts down on paper like I had planned to do. I’m having a very difficult time putting my thoughts together on this event and my words are not really able to capture all that it has meant to me. With that said I wanted to put something down on paper so I went back to an outline I had put together for the Go the Distance appreciation assembly that was held at the Franklin Gym one week after the event. I did my best to take that outline and recreate basically what I said during my 20 minute speech that day.

Do you know what I wish? I wish that everyone here could have felt what it has been like to be me for the past week. It would change your life. It has changed mine.

Just hours into the 24-hour run I was accompanied by Erika Small, one of the key Go the Distance team members. Erika said to me,”did you ever imagine it would be like this?” I knew the answer she expected to get but my reply was something different. I responded to her, “Yes, this is how I imagined it.” When you are planning an event and you picture it in your head you always visualize it at its best. Saturday after the event I sent Erika another email saying that I had changed my answer I gave her 48 hours earlier. I expected the media at the start and the kids going wild and band being great and the 5k having 500 participants and all those other things. What I didn’t see coming were the intangibles and emotional effect this event would have on the kids, the participants and the entire community. It touched a nerve in people and had a deeper effect than I ever imagined. I’ve heard countless stories from people who were moved to tears. It brought the school together like I’ve never seen before. Go the Distance transcended the run and the event and became a movement.

I had a lot riding on this event. It was my creation and my family’s name and reputation were all over it. For media purposes I made a huge commitment and “I called my shot”. I not only said I am going to run for 24 hours but that I’m going to run 125 miles in 24 hours. I knew that was what the media wanted to hear. There was certainly added pressure put on me to reach that distance. Most of that pressure was applied by me. Nobody would have called the run a failure if I only reached 120 miles but it was important to me. As a result, stress levels were very high and sleep was minimal in the weeks leading up to the run. The tension built when the media picked up as the day got closer. In the two nights prior to the event I got nine hours of sleep. From Tuesday morning to Friday morning (72 hours) I slept a total of 9 hours.

The night before the run I got 4 hours sleep and woke up at 1:15 not able go back to sleep so I began the slow methodical process of getting ready. It was actually a relief to be getting in the car and driving to the school. It was a busy morning for everyone and things came together as planned. I was wishing I had more alone time to prepare but I was running around answering questions, medical checks and doing media stuff right up to the time when I was handed the microphone to say a few words to the kids and families that came out. I can’t tell you exactly what I said but I know the message was something about the fact that this event has long outgrown me and it is now about a school and a community coming together to make a difference. At the time I had no idea how right I would be proven to be.

I won’t bore you with the hour by hour details of what I was thinking or doing but there were events that stood out in my mind throughout the day that I feel are important to share.

I enjoyed running with every class as they came out for their PE for the day. It was a great distraction and constant entertainment. If I were in a race it would have been a terrible distraction but this was not a race. What stands out to me now is the fact that the kids wanted to talk to me. Not like an adult or like a teacher but like a friend. Early in the day I was running with the 8th graders. I’d been into the classrooms in the weeks prior and asked who was planning on coming out to the Thursday evening 5k and festivities. A few hands “casually” went up, as 8th grade hands do. That’s cool, I expected that. But when I asked the same question on the track I got a different answer. There was enthusiasm. They wanted to be a part of this. I knew the older kids were in! Then it was time to run with the kindergarteners. What a wonderful mess that was! Sure enough first lap a kid is running in front of me looking back and goes down right in front of me and the herd of 40 charging kindergarteners. We managed not to trample him and pressed on. I learned the names of all their pets and each of their Birthdays and several other random facts about each one before we parted ways. With that I knew the little kids were in! The same story goes for each grade. There was a feeling that most of them wanted to be there and were excited about what was happening. I took energy from knowing that the message that we were trying to send just might get through to some of them.

As the day pressed on and the evening approached I began to feel the wear of 40 plus miles starting to have an effect. Just before the start of the 5k I had so many eyes on me and I was at a point where I needed a quick break to fill up on calories and fluid but I didn’t take the time that I should have to make sure I had everything right. When I headed out on the 5k course for 3 loops I was already low on hydration and calories and the half hour away from the track took a toll on me. The good news is that I knew exactly what I needed. I finished the 5k and told my Dad, “I’m thirsty, I’m hungry and I’m wiped out.” He calmly said “okay”, and began to fix the problem. I stopped and put down 300 calories, 12 oz of water 450 mg of sodium and he sent me on my way with another 10 oz of water to finish over the next few laps. I told Gina I’d like an escort and she ran in front of me for about 20 minutes or so before the fueling began to kick in and I came back around. It doesn’t take much to get off on the fueling and feel the effects. Before long I was feeling a little better but the miles were slowly taking their toll.

I loved the music. Mother Mayhew was awesome and sounded great. But, by the time it began to get dark and the people began to clear out I was also ready for the circus to leave town and to get to work on what would be the most difficult pat of this run, the darkness. There is a saying in the ultrarunning world that in a 100 mile race you run the first 50 with you legs and the second 50 with you mind. In a 24 hour run I would say you run the first 12 hours with your legs and the second 12 with you mind. It was time for the mind to take over. Strangely I don’t have any great stories to tell from the night. It was a surreal experience and I just put my head down and did what I had to do. Many people came out to join me throughout the night and most of the time the company was welcome. Some time shortly after midnight I began to sink into rough patch and asked to run alone for a while. I loved the fact that so many people were willing to join me and help me through the night but there comes a time where nobody can help and I have to turn inwards and close out all outside distractions. At this point I was no longer making decisions but rather relying 100% on my crew or my Father and Brother-in-law to make those decisions for me. Sheri commented that she felt like she was playing the part of Mother of the Bride with so many people asking her questions about me. She was calm and ensured everyone that I was doing fine even when it may have appeared that I was struggling. Sheri has seen worse and says she can tell my condition from my eyes. My Dad says he can tell from my speech. My Brother-in-law / EMT says he can tell from my vital signs. What a team!

My Dad and I had a plan going into this thing. Every lap was calculated on a pace chart and assuming we stuck with the plan I would reach 125 miles with 30 minutes to spare. The plan was to take it easy during the day and enjoy the company of everyone around me. I would run very conservatively and try and remain reasonably social through 8:30 pm on Thursday. Once everyone left I would get down to business and we both expected that things might get a little messy through the night. Once we knew that I would make the 125 miles I would slowly begin to shut it down and back off the pace so that I would be able to compose myself and grab the microphone and speak to the kids after the run. That was important to me and I was willing to sacrifice a few miles so that I would be able to address them at the end. To our surprise five media trucks began arriving in the 4:00 hour and stopping and walking was no longer an option for me. I did slow the pace a bit but could not bring myself to take any extended breaks or walk with the cameras present. As it turned out the slowing of the pace along with the rising of the sun and gathering of the crowd gave me the amazing boost of energy I needed to finish this thing off.

April 23, 2010

At about 23 hours and 15 minutes I completed the lap that put me at 125 miles. Nobody there really knew how important that lap was to me. It was even far more important than the last lap. From here on in it was all celebration and I did my best to enjoy the moment even though I was very uncomfortable. As the final laps wore down everything came together as it should. I ran a few laps with Gina and we quietly gave each other a little pat on the back for what we have accomplished with Go the Distance. She was also exhausted from being up all night and running this show and at that moment, as we slowly made our way around the track I felt as if we had run every step side-by-side from the very beginning. Then my family joined me for a bit and I was able to see the pride in my kids eyes as we slowly jogged past a cheering crowd. Finally the Osborne girls joined me for what would be the final lap. The girls and I talked throughout during the lap but I couldn’t tell you what was said. My mind was focused on what I had been through over the last 24 hours and everything it has taken over the last 6 months to get to this point. As we rounded the final curve all the hairs on my arms began to stand and that tingling feeling overcame my entire body. At this moment there was no pain, only numbness from head to toe. It was as it I felt every emotion at one instance and then it was over.

With those final steps I accomplished my goal, a goal that I set 6 months prior. The goal that I had spent over 500 hours preparing for. In order to accomplish this goal I had to be willing to go to a place that most people have never been and most will never go; their outer limits of mental and physical possibilities. What I’ve learned from doing these runs is not that I can push myself to my limit. What I learned is that my limit is way further out than I ever imagined it was. Every time I think I can’t go another step but find a way to do it I learn that I am stronger than I know. It’s like exploring space. People used to think the universe was what was in front of them. As we have begun to explore space, the more we learn the more we understand there is so much more out there than we ever realized. And there is more out there than you realize. You can do far more than you realize. Your mind and your body are an amazing vehicle that will take you anywhere you want to go if you take care of it and you are willing to work for it. It may even take you places that you never imagined were possible.

A few weeks ago our photographer James Pratt asked me to come up with a motivational saying and write it down on a piece of paper and sign it. He was going to emboss it on a photo and offer it on his website. I put it off for a while but eventually decided I would do it. But what would I say? There is a saying that I really liked that goes, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." By T.S. Eliot. The only problem was that I couldn’t use it because it is too wordy and it would be plagiarism. So I began to take the quote and break it down to its basic meaning and I came up with these three words, “Challenge the Impossible”. I liked it but I needed to run it by my brain trust, Gavin. I said to Gavin, “What do you think of this motivational quote, Challenge the Impossible?” He thought about it for about a second and a half and said, “That’s dumb Dad, why would you challenge the impossible? If it is impossible why would you bother doing it?” That’s when I knew it was perfect.

I had a number of people that I needed to thank. Principle Shawn Shaw for never hesitating for a second to allow this to happen. Jason Harper for the guidance and encouragement and warning me on the effect of running for a reason. To my crew: Brother-in-law Kevin Guerrero and my Dad for standing at attention for every lap and making sure everything was taken care of and putting my safety and needs first. To my family, Sheri, Garret and Gavin for the encouragement, never doubting me and putting up with everything that has gone into this event. Nobody knows how much they have sacrificed and how much of my time they have given up to allow this to happen. I had two very special people that I thanked and presented with a nice photo collage and flowers. Michelle Guardino, Thank you. You have no idea how good you really are as you quietly just get the job done. I’m sure that every teacher in the school will testify to this. Gina Anixter, my partner from the beginning, Thank you. Go the Distance will continue at Franklin but only if you are willing to do it with me.

Go the Distance became more than a fundraiser. It became a movement and it sent a message. Where you wind up in life is a result of all the little decisions you make every day of your life. Each day you wake you have a choice to take the easy way, the way that you are comfortable with. Or you can take the path that may be a little more difficult. The way that may have some mountains to climb but the way that will lead you to where you want to be. So each day you make a choice, the easy way, the path of less resistance, or the hard way, the path that leads you to the top of the mountain. So what’s it going to be? Will you choose to take the path of less resistance or will you choose to Go the Distance? Make the right choice. Climb that mountain. Go the Distance.