Monday, February 23, 2015

Spiritual Tools to Finish the Race by Karen Meyer

Karen Meyer Proves She Can

I decided to walk the LA Marathon in 2013 all of a month and a half before the race. I’d never been an athlete, but, hey, I’d been walking regularly
for about a year, so I figured I could do it. I’d always been fascinated
with marathons. Something about finding a speed and a rhythm, something
about the tenacity of it appeals to me.

I signed up.

“Stadium to the Sea”. Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Walking on Los Angeles
streets, cleared of traffic just for us. 26.2 miles.

The race started from Dodger Stadium at 7:30 in the morning. Thousands of
us in giant corrals, one pack starting after another. The serious runners
were in the first group. I was in the very last group. I was a walker.
But I was just enjoying the whole scene: masses of people who showed up
just to cheer us on, bands set up on street corners, volunteers passing
out water and orange slices. I kept trying to figure out what my pace was
from the giant clocks, but between potty stops and the fact that I didn’t
know what time my corral actually started... I stopped trying.

Mile 10: I knew LA really well, so I was continually amazed to look around
and realize “Wow, I just walked to HERE!” and “Look where I am NOW!”.
Mile 15: my sister called. She was following my progress online. She told
me from Michigan what my pace was and what time I was expected to finish.
16-and-a-half-minute miles! I was on pace......in spite of the potty
breaks! YES!!! 

Mile 18: a friend called. By then I was starting to feel pain in my left
foot. I was favoring it. “It’s just pain” I told him, “it’s not going to
slow me down.”

But by mile 20, the pain was all the way up my leg to my hip. My entire
left leg was in pain. I was hobbling.

I had known that at some point in the race I would turn it into a walking
meditation. Now was the time. I turned inward, I focused on my feet. Heel,
toe, heel, toe, heel, toe...

I tried once taking a break by leaning up against a tree. Big mistake. It
was really painful to start walking again. Better to simply walk.
Heel, toe, heel, toe, heel, toe....

Mile 23: the cramping started. First in my left leg, then my right. Every
step was excruciatingly painful. I started prayer treatment: “Infinite
Spirit is everywhere present, Infinite Spirit is in every cell of my body,
in every cell of my legs, in the space between the cells...”

Aaahh, the cramping dissipated. Good, I can stop that...

Aarrgghh... “Infinite Spirit is everywhere present...”

If someone had seen me—and believe me, no one was looking, the few of us
still walking were each in our own private hells—they would have seen me
walking  down the street with my eyes closed, talking out loud to myself,
like a crazy person.

That last stretch seemed to take forever. It seemed I’d never reach the sea.
But when I finally saw Ocean Avenue a few blocks away, I knew I could
finish. Those of us who were still walking had been at it over 7 hours.
The race was officially long over. We were the stragglers.

I remember only one other person on that last stretch with me. Well, two.
A young man, seventeen-ish, fit, tall. He was shuffling his feet. And he
had one arm draped over the shoulder of a middle-aged man—father? coach?
As I passed him, I heard the older man trying to propel him on. “When you
commit to something, you finish it. You finish what you start.”

As I passed him, I could see that this young man had absolutely nothing
left in him. I imagined that seven hours ago he had started this race
running. I imagined he thought he would conquer it. This young man who had
everything over me: youth, fitness, long legs. He was empty, absolutely
empty. I was passing him. Me.

“You finish what you start.”? Boy, that wouldn't do it for me, not that
day, not at mile 26.1.

What I had, that in his youth he didn't yet have, was internal strength.
He had it over me in spades on the physical plane, but I had the internal
strength and spiritual tools to finish that race. 

And I did.
The Finish Line