family reunions

By SOLO

The school year has started, and a new semester is upon us. That means that last week I introduced myself to yet another fresh pack of college students.

“Get out a piece of paper, and ask me a random question”, I say. I do this introductory exercise quite often. It never fails to leave the whole class and myself laughing our heads off. “Use your discretion”, I remind. They giggle.

A pile of white letters comes to the front. One by one, I read out the questions and answer them, skipping the occasional playful “Can I have your number?”.

“Where are you from?”
“Do you play any sports?”
“What’s your favorite color?”

“Where would you rather be right now?”

I pause, thinking.

Finally, looking up, I say, “You know what? I’m actually pretty happy right here”. I mean it.
“Not at the beach somewhere?”, a student wonders. “Nope”, I reply. “Islands are overrated”.

Conversations such as this one, remind me on my not-so-good want-to-strangle-my-students days that I actually like my job. That most of the time, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Next week, when I’m slaying the Ultra Beast (or the Ultra Beast is slaying me), I need to remember that. Miserable and in pain, chances are there will be nowhere I’d rather be. Covered in mud, pushing myself to the edge of my ability and beyond, side by side with my Spartan family.

I love Spartan races, because they are the most competitive series out there. Unlike Tough Mudder, unlike community mud runs, Spartan is undoubtedly a race, a test of brute force and speed. However, it’s the people you meet at the start line and on course that make the experience truly amazing. Race after race, seeing familiar faces becomes like a family reunion… minus the awkward uncle.

In my everyday non-Spartan life, I constantly hear from others “wow, you are crazy!”, “you are intense”, “why would you want to do that?”, “that’s insane”, “you’re a machine!”, “you are a tank!”, “you are a horse!” (I sweat I got that one at least once, and I’m still scratching my head), “you are a beast” (this one for obvious reasons is my favorite… I smile and think to myself – why, yes. yes, I am).

The half naked sea of muscle at the start line of the Spartan elite wave are all insane. Just. Like. Me. Talk about basic human need to belong, huh? Some to go church, some crawl on ice under barb wire…

Result? With all that insanity around, your own insanity is actually not that insane any more… Like in high school, bright colored hair and piercings galore, we stand out to fit in.

Few years ago a friend of mine, who is an elite athlete, went away to a training camp. She just made the national team after months and months of dedicated training, early mornings and late nights. For a month, she was training with her new teammates. I had lunch with her after she got back. She was glowing. She was walking on air. She looked pensively into the distance, smiling to herself. She was completely and utterly smitten with the team.

“Oh my god, SOLO”, she gushed. “It was just so amazing to be training side by side with these women. I’ve never met anyone like them before. They are just so… determined… strong, stubborn, driven… just so… ”

“Just like you”, I finish for her.

Yes, it’s amazing. For a brief moment to realize that you are not crazy. Or maybe you are crazy. Your own special level and brand of crazy, but that there is a whole pack of you out there with that same diagnosis.

So, my family reunions are a little different… Can’t wait to see you at the start of the Ultra Beast, my Spartan family.

Aroo. Aroo. AROOOOOOO!

Hugs,
SOLO

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Posted September 16, 2012

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