59: The Comeback

59: The Comeback

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

The Comeback

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

~Steve Prefontaine

It was New Year’s Eve 2011. I sat on my couch with my two dogs and was reflecting on the year. I had turned fifty in February and was taking some time to learn about myself. I was learning to embrace solitude and I was discovering peace.

As I sat on my couch, I recalled the joy I had experienced back in my glory days, running ultra marathons, winning National Championships, representing the United States at the World Championships. I thought of all of the friends I had made in the sport.

It had been a decade since I had entered a competition. Strangely, tears began to roll down my cheeks. Then, for the first time in many years, I wept openly. I tried to compose myself and walked to the bathroom to wash my face. It was there that I took a good, long, hard look at myself in the mirror.

I was no longer that ultra marathon runner. I had to confront reality. I was a middle-aged man in decent enough shape to sit behind the desk in my office for the day. Sure, I could still go out and run easily for an hour or go down to the gym and lift weights. I still worked out every day, but I was not the same person, the same athlete that I was in the late 1990s.

In the time away from competing, I’d raised my daughters and developed my law practice in Vermont. I attributed it all to growing up. It was easy to tell myself that. I had grown content in my life and appeared comfortable with the increase in the size of my waistline.

When I took a serious look at myself, I knew it was time to change. I lacked discipline and had no readily identifiable goals.

I shut off the TV. I began to contemplate what it was that I wanted in my life. Did I want to remain in my present state? Had I grown so old that I could no longer imagine a better me? Could I see myself transforming back into a competitive athlete? Did I have it in me? What was I made of? Was there something in me that desired more? Did I dare to dream?

A strange quiet came over me. I was going to transform my life. It was time to reinvent myself, to become all that I could imagine. I had to see it. I had to believe it. I began to think of myself as that thin, super fit athlete that could accomplish anything he set his mind to. This was not just about diet, exercise, and my routine. This was much deeper. It was going to be a complete transformation — mind, body and spirit.

I saw the end result as I sat there that night. The only things in the way of my desired result were effort and time. I asked myself one more question: “What are you willing to do to make this dream a reality?” The answer was a very simple one: “Whatever it takes!”

I slept well that night and was prepared for Day 1 of my metamorphosis. I gulped down a couple of cups of coffee and visualized my results. I was going to do this, but I was going to accept and forgive myself. It was time to be kind and loving to myself. It was going to be one day at a time. Day after day, doing whatever was required to reach my goal. I had not deteriorated into this condition overnight, and I expected it was going to take some time to achieve my ultimate goal. I understood the level of commitment that was needed and prepared myself for the battle that was ahead.

The first few days, I was filled with enthusiasm and it was easy to stay on track. I expected some plateaus and prepared myself mentally for the difficult days. As the days went by, my newly discovered discipline developed into more discipline. I vowed to abstain from alcohol and to remain true to my restricted diet of 1,200 calories per day. I was running for an hour every morning and lifting weights for another hour three or four days per week. Weight began to disappear. I lost approximately three pounds every week. This was feeling good. I was gaining momentum and strength as each day passed. There was no doubt in my mind that I would get down to my desired weight. I was planning a return to ultra marathons by the end of 2012. It was all going to happen.

By the beginning of June, I was down to my desired weight. My health was good and I was running well. I was running faster and my efforts were getting easier. It was time to up my mileage and forge ahead. I would start increasing my mileage by adding time and distance to my Sunday runs until I could run for four or five hours.

In my down time, I would read and study anything that I could on a wide range of topics. I was reading two to three books each week and increasing my knowledge base. My life was transforming. As my waist shrunk, my mind expanded. I was transforming myself in mind, body and spirit. It was as if a spark inside me had burst into flames. I became passionate about inspiring others, sharing what I was learning and helping others to grow in areas that they sought.

I would often remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”

I decided to run a six-hour race in October and diligently trained for it. As race day approached in late October, I could feel those old feelings of excitement and anticipation. It was now time to come back and experience the joy that I always felt while competing in the sport that I loved so much. The results would not be nearly as important as the journey. The journey is, after all, the most important part. That is where we find success.

The six-hour race was a wonderful event. It was there that I shared my passion with fellow runners and experienced bliss for the entire event. Since that race, I have competed at numerous ultra marathons at distances ranging all the way up to 100 miles and timed races of up to twenty-four hours.

What has become abundantly clear to me is that it is not the achievement of our goals that define us, but rather what we become in the pursuit of those goals. As Ernest Hemingway stated, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

~Brian Teason

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