Lunch in the staff lounge is usually lively and frequently hilarious. Sometimes it's even thought-provoking. Our conversations don't normally fall into the intellectual category, but sometimes a little something sticks in my mind for the rest of the day.
Earlier this week we were talking about running marathons--definitely not something I aspire to--but one of Brandon's young teachers had just run the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon. Other staffers have run marathons too, but this was Robyn's first. Robyn looks like a beauty escaped from a Vermeer portrait, and her classical looks and gentle manner belie her athleticism and commitment. What I find remarkable about Robyn's experience was that she trained and ran the race by herself. No support group for this young woman. She dragged herself out of bed for months ahead of time, put on her running shoes and took off. There were no companionable footsteps echoing hers during her long training runs. No one encouraging her to keep going. Robyn did it on her own.
When Robyn came back to work after the Marathon she was discussing the physical difficulties of the race. She ran for 4 1/2 hours and when she was done she couldn't even bend down to complete her post race stretches. She told about going out to dinner and having to climb an agonizingly long staircase to reach the ladies room. There was definitely a physical toll--even for a 24 year old. So naturally, the question came up...why? Why did she subject herself to this ordeal?
A lot of us at the lunch table couldn't imagine doing it. But Robyn said that running a marathon was something she's always wanted to do...so she did it. I was ready to chalk this attitude off to youthful whimsy, but then my friend Judy chimed in. Judy is a veteran marathoner (I think if you've run more than one you can be called a veteran!) and long-distance walker. Judy said she does it for the challenge. She doesn't think Americans challenge themselves enough. That line was my lunch time "take-away."
I wonder if the achievement of physical challenges requires different personal strengths than challenges that are more mental in nature? Is the commitment the same? When was the last time I challenged myself, and then followed it through to completion? Hmmm. A hard question to answer. Looking back on this blog I realize I have issued myself a few challenges to myself over the past year, but I haven't been very vigilant about the follow-through. Lots of good intentions, but not enough action. The entire quote that inspired the title of this post tells it all: "Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." The search for meaning continues.