For those of you who actually read the blog, please pardon the redundancy.
For those of you who are new, here is the three sentence run-down.
I tried to run the island of Okinawa last April, and my friend and I ran seventy miles from south to north. Last weekend I tried to run it alone from north to south. I completed about fifty miles. I’m still not sure how far it is for runner/walkers/shufflers; I think it’s somewhere from eighty-three to ninety-three miles total.
Here’s the low down on my latest experience.
My guy and I rented a RV for the weekend, and we picked it up on Saturday. The RV was the perfect little cocoon for my experience. It didn’t have a toilet or shower; yet, it was compact and just what we needed. We loaded up our little RV with snacks, change of clothes, and everything I thought I would need for this journey. We drove up to the northern point on Okinawa, which is Cape Hedo. The cape is beautiful and unrelenting. We have tried to camp up there a couple of times, and the wind has made it impossible. This time we had the RV, so we were finally able to stay the night up there. The views are stunning, so I was excited for the opportunity to enjoy being up there.
Sunday morning: I woke up sometime between 5am and 6am, and the wind was literally shaking the RV. The rain was slapping at the windows. The circumstances felt unbearable. My plan to start at 7am did not seem possible. My guy reminded me that I could start whenever I wanted to, so I fell back asleep, woke up an hour later, and I started at 7:49am. There was a light mist and a lot of wind. I kept telling myself that the wind would subside, but it didn’t. As the day progressed, I got colder and colder. I have lived on Okinawa and been running in the brutal heat and humidity of the island for over three years, and I never expected to get cold. However, you combine sweat, cool temps, and heavy winds, for hours on end…the body gets cold.
I worked my way through the wind for almost 30 miles, and I finally ended up in Nago. Nago is a nice sized city in the north, and it gave me buildings, which provided me with a break from the wind. Whew! Some relief! South of the city, there are large, beautiful resorts, and they helped block the wind too, but as I pressed on, the buildings went away. The wind had returned. Darkness fell upon me as well. My spirits started to spiral downward. I stopped at a convenient store to meet my guy and pup, and I found pizza and warmth. That little pizza was so good.
I added layers of clothes, and I headed out for the next ten miles. (I had planned a meet up with my guy ten miles up the road). However, after a few miles, I was coherent enough to know that I was moving so slowly against the wind that it would take me twelve or more hours to finish. I was over half way done, but I was falling a part. I was cold. It was dark. I was alone, and I would be alone for two to three hours before seeing my husband at this pace. I could not bear it. I convinced myself that this is not how I would wanted to spend my free time. I started balancing, calculating, wondering: if I only get a certain amount of free time with my guy, do I want to use it all destroying my body and walking through the night, or do I want to relax and have fun with my guy and dog??? Not only would I walk through the night, I would spend the entire next day asleep. Our holiday weekend would be me sleeping, and he and the dog playing, and quite frankly, I wanted to play with them too.
Soooo, this is where the deep stuff comes into play. Comfort to me means play time with my guy and my dog. I live a very comfortable life; I am beyond blessed. Uncomfortable would be: walk all night (because I was not running again until day light), and be uncomfortably sore and in pain for days to come. I was already uncomfortable. I would just extend it for many hours – then days in recovery. Why attempt the island? Do I really want to use my free time like this? None of this is meant to be comfortable. How uncomfortable am I willing to get? I am still working through these and many other questions. See friends, this isn’t JUST about running. This is about mindset and growth, and I obviously have some internal work to do.
Sunday evening, I was picked up in Onna, and my husband drove me straight home. Warming me up was top priority. I took a hot bath, got into some comfy pajamas, got in bed, with extra blankets, and I slept about ten hours. I woke up with sore legs and a broken heart. I had trained for about a year and a half. I took my training very seriously, and I only missed two training runs in all that time. I spent time, energy, and money to reach this goal. I felt confident that I could do it, but I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t do it!
Monday morning: I said it over and over, and I have continued to say it over and over. As much as I want to pat myself on the back for trying, and as much as I want to feel like I accomplished something because 50 miles is a legitimate accomplishment, I still failed and did not reach my goal. The thing about failure is that you learn so much. You learn about the experience and how to do it better, and you learn about yourself. You learn things like: how do you overcome failure? What do you do when you have been knocked down? Do you set the bar lower next time or adjust future goals? Do you even try again? Do you leave the journey stronger and better than when you started it? There are so many questions, and there is so much work that I need to do to answer these questions for myself.
What I can say is that I saw sunrises, sunsets, beautiful flowers, coastal birds, farms, beaches, mountains, and views that can only be captured if you are out in nature, and I saw A LOT of them because over the past year and a half, I spent a ton of time in nature. I learned about myself. I learned about how to endure some levels of pain and discomfort. I learned random facts from so many podcasts. I smiled a lot, and I loved the feeling of accomplishment when I would get in my post-run salt baths. I may not have accomplished this big goal, but every week for about eighty weeks, I felt like I had accomplished something because for eighty weeks, I completed another training week. I have enjoyed my week off as I have rested and recovered, and I am excited to try other new activities, but I am pretty sure that I will be running again soon. I just can’t help myself. There is nothing like it.
I also can’t say whether or not I’ll try it again, but if you see me out on Highway 58 next March, there is a chance that I’ll be out there working toward my elusive goal.