Tough challenges make you tough

Well, it's here! The Sunnybrook Stomp is finally upon us. I have been training for this run for almost two months now and find that I still don't know if I'm going to last the five miles or not. I think I am prepared. Having put myself through a ...

Well, it's here! The Sunnybrook Stomp is finally upon us. I have been training for this run for almost two months now and find that I still don't know if I'm going to last the five miles or not. I think I am prepared. Having put myself through a vigorous training program to get ready does make me more confident, despite the groaning of my body in protest. But, am I going to make it? Yes. I am determined to do it.

I know for many of you, running five miles is a snap ... a breath of wind. But to this 51-year-old body, to make it would be a major accomplishment. I know one thing: I have set my heart and mind to run the whole five miles, no matter how long it takes me. I am not in it to win a race or beat anyone; I am in it to say I did it -- that I prepared for something tough and accomplished my goal. I certainly have had to prepare mentally as well. I had to convince myself that accomplishing something so hard was all the reward I needed. This type of satisfaction is what I am seeking when I cross the finish line, even though I may be in last place.

However, in preparation for this run, I have learned some other very important lessons. May I share them with you?

  • Tough challenges raise your expectations of yourself.

It goes without saying that putting your mind and heart into doing something extremely difficult makes you set your sights a little higher. You must realize that there is more in you ... that deep within there is strength you must call on to help you get through the tough challenge. You must convince yourself that there is more to you than meets the eye -- that you can push yourself to the outer limits. One of my heroes is Lance Armstrong. Here is a man who has overcome tremendous health issues in his life and went on to win against competitors years younger than himself. As I have prepared for this five-mile run, I have realized that I have reserves of strength in me I didn't think possible. I suspect this may be true of every one of us.

  • Tough challenges prove your character.

I am not out to just begin the race, I am out to finish it -- no matter what. There are many of us who can testify to starting something and never finishing. I can't count the number of times this has happened to me, so every once in a while, I challenge myself to do the tough thing -- something that shouts to me, "finish!" I heard someone say once that it's not those who begin the race, but those who finish the race that prove their integrity and character. I think there is some truth to this don't you? A running race may seem trivial, but this is kind of a symbolic goal I wish to accomplish, to prove to myself I can do something hard and never give up. Isn't that a great lesson for life? Every one of us has been dealt a hand to play with. Some of you are going through great difficulties and I would like to encourage you. Don't give up! Always have hope and finish the race set before you.


  • Tough challenges make us stronger.

It goes without saying that we get stronger when we are pushed to the limit. Weight-lifters get stronger by lifting. Runners get stronger and faster by running. How can we ever know our strength of character, mental and spiritual toughness unless we are put through the school of tough challenges? Tremendous pressure put upon coal produces a diamond. Gold is minutely purified when put through the hottest fire. In the same way, tough character muscles are formed when our character is stretched, when our determination is challenged to exceed the limit. I have learned that when I cooperate and determine to go through, not around a difficulty, I am blessed. When I go through tough times with an attitude of being teachable and becoming stronger, I find the waves don't seem so high. The winds that blow aren't so scary. Knowing I will be different and better makes all the difference.

  • Tough challenges reveal our weaknesses to us.

As I have prepared for this race, I have pushed my body to the point of it screaming out to me, "Hey, cut it out!" But, I discovered the following weaknesses: my eating habits were poor, I was very much out of shape, I didn't know how to jog/run properly and I had very poor breath control. These were all weaknesses that leapt out at me as I set out to get ready for the Sunnybrook Stomp. It's not that I didn't know they were there ... it's that I ignored them until now. Does that sound familiar? In life, pressure put upon us, difficulties we must go through reveal to us our weak points. This past year I have learned so very much from the difficulties I have had to face in my life. I have learned to forgive more readily, to love more easily, to be more patient and to not let my past dictate my future. When our weaknesses are revealed, it's time to take action and strengthen those areas that are weak. Tough challenges are great tools for this very purpose. Determine in your heart you will not let your weaknesses deter you from doing the tough things in life. Resolve to go through the storms of life with grace, dignity and with a teachable spirit.
Let's rise to the challenges before us with determination and mental toughness. Stay in the race! I'm standing with you!

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