As I was driving to the studio for my workout with my trainer I was listening to Rich Roll‘s Finding Ultra, a book I’ve wanted to read for years now and I’m so happy to finally be in it. A few minutes from arriving, I listened transfixed as Rich described the first day of his EPIC5 Challenge, completed with his friend and training partner Jason Lester, in which they set out to complete 5 Ironman-distance triathlons on five different Hawaiian islands in five days. This was a challenge they created for themselves, without mass media coverage or competitors from around the world; they weren’t even competing with one another, the goal was to finish together with their volunteer crew to mark the event.
At a very quiet and dark 3:00am start time on May 5, 2010, the island of Kaui still asleep as they began their 26-mile run with their crew leader snapping a photo to mark the event. A few miles into their run a woman in her car pulled up alongside of Rich and Jason, slowed down to keep pace with them and told them she’d heard what they were doing and wanted to come see for herself and to wish them luck, and her parting words were, “make us proud!” Not long after, they encountered a police cruiser, lights flashing, and the officer shouted out, “Aloha! Looking good, boys! Keep going!” as they passed.
As their first day progressed, Rich & Jason were joined at various times of their run, swim and bike stages not just by onlookers and well-wishers, but by locals who participated in their event for whatever length of time they were able. And Rich kept noticing how not alone they were, even though that’s what he’d expected for their not having publicized or alerted the media to their challenge. Emotional as I listened and felt the spirit of this story, my tears celebrated the beauty and humanness of service, in all its shapes and sizes, the love that is each of us, and I pulled into my parking space, eager to work out for the next 30 minutes.
My trainer gave me an easy warm-up: three sets of 10 left foot, 10 right foot, and 10 together with the braided heavy-weighted style jump rope. This is a fun warmup that I’ve done multiple times and the game for me is not stopping between the foot switch, to make it seamless. Except this time I miscalculated the distance between my left foot and the rope and on the tenth underpass, my left foot rolled with the rope and my entire body came down on that ankle. Hard. I screamed in pain as my body assumed fetal position and my brain didn’t communicate to the tear ducts to produce tears until the hands of my trainer physically turned my body over and I was surrounded with love.
My tears flowed as his gentle loving hands held me from behind and reassured me that I am safe. My tears flowed as two more pairs of gentle loving hands cradled my throbbing ankle to assess the damage. Together these hands all lifted me and gently relocated me to a safer space and wrapped my foot with their love and I felt how not alone I am, and my tears celebrated the beauty and humanness of this service, this love that is each of us and the awareness that we’re all just walking miracles, anxious and eager for any opportunity to give away the very essence of who we are: love.
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I don’t want my life to be defined by what is etched on a tombstone. I want it to be defined by what is etched in the lives and hearts of those I’ve touched.” — Steve Maraboli