Lingering at an Aid Station

Lingering at an Aid Station

On one perfect day in December of 2016, an athlete named Caroline Boller would take advantage of her incredible running ability and countless hours of training to set a blistering fast world best 50 mile trail time at Brazos Bend State Park. By contrast, literally hours after her remarkable finish, I myself, (also attempting to finish the 50 miler) was still located somewhere near mile 35, limping into an aid station. Once there, I found my drop bag and gingerly lowered myself to the ground a few yards away from the volunteer tent, wincing from my nagging IT band pain and hoping that my tired feet and unhappy legs would benefit from a brief respite.


(I was only a few miles into it when this pic was taken. Yes, I ran in pink shoes.)

If I’m honest, it was my own dang fault for being in such pain, having not trained nearly enough for this race – but you couldn’t have told me that as I moped on the ground, nursing exhausted legs that increasingly ached with every step after mile 20. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself and too self-absorbed to notice the buzz of happy runners and volunteers swarming nearby.

So I continued to rest on that patch of dirt for some considerable time. I wasn’t quitting, but I wasn’t getting back up either. Frankly, I wasn’t thinking far ahead enough to even quit at that point. Like a tired toddler, I was thinking only of food, water, and rest – and feeling either cranky or oblivious about everything else.

I’m not sure how long I lingered there, slumped on the ground under the tall trees. But after a period of time, a runner stopped by and asked how I was feeling. I responded politely and feigned cheerfulness, explaining that my legs hurt and I was taking a break. “Well,” he replied, looking over me with probably a hint of concern, “It’s still a few hours before dark. If you get up now, I’m sure you can get to the finish before then.”

It was a casual remark, there was no sense of depth or profundity in his voice, but his words stuck in my mind. His hint that I could make it to the end before dark helped me set a more specific and achievable target than just finishing. It provided a new sense of urgency to my effort. Taking it to heart, I struggled to my feet and kept moving, half limping, half jogging the rest of the way. It was close, but I finished just as the sun began dipping below the horizon.


(Me posing after the finish with my awesome future boss)

Now I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s lingered at an aid station in a literal sense. But in a more figurative sense, have y’all “stayed too long at an aid station” in some other aspect of your life? Because I certainly have.

As an example, for some years now, I’ve looked at college registration deadlines come and go, telling myself that I would go back to school part time and finish my degree, and for years now I’ve always found an excuse not to do it. I haven’t decided to NOT get a degree, but I hadn’t made any moves to actually make progress toward it. In that sense it’s like staying too long at an aid station – not quitting, but not moving ahead either.

In any case I’d love to hear about times in y’all’s lives that you’ve been “stuck at an aid station”, and hopefully how you overcame it! Because to be honest, we’re all trying to make it to the finish line before dark.

Thanks,
Philip

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