Challenges and Running

I was ready for a flat 3 miles as I came out of Edgewater Park following the Lake Erie coast. I had put 10 miles of the Cleveland Rite Aid Half Marathon behind me. I encountered something quite different. The Cleveland Shoreway climbed with every twist and turn. The final grueling mile crested the bridge over the Cuyahoga River. It rewarded me with a downhill run across the finish line.

Running challenges me. I find running difficult. When I started running 3 years ago, I thought it would be a piece of cake given the amount of cycling I do regularly. I discovered that it is a different animal. It uses different muscles and is harder on my body. I question myself during most of my runs as to why I am out here running instead of riding a bike.

I run because I know it is good cardio exercise. I run because it is good for my health. I run because I enjoy the outdoors. I run because I have a wonderful supportive network of fellow runners. I run because I enjoy the excitement of the races. I run because it gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride. I run because I want a free t-shirt and banana. Above all, I run for the challenge.

George S. Patton said, “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” In 2010, I took a leap and cycled 150 miles in two days in the Bike MS Pedal to the Point charity ride. In 2011, my best friend Chuck and I cycled 335 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. In 2014, I crossed the Akron Half Marathon finish line. These three events represent challenges that I accepted and enjoyed the thrill of victory in the end.

I have credited my love of cycling for changing my life substantially. It opened new doors and thrust me into a much more active lifestyle. Over the past year, I found that running has snuck up and challenged me to be more of an athlete that I ever imagined being. By the way, this is first time I have felt comfortable using the work athlete to describe myself.

I have come to realize that athletes come in all shapes and sizes with differencing abilities. I used to reserve the term athlete to the person who excelled in their sport and exemplified the image of that sport. That is not the case. The person who crosses a run’s finish line last is just as much an athlete as the winner. The last cyclist crossing the finish line after a grueling 150 miles is just as much an athlete as the first to cross the finish line.

This year I chose to challenge myself to run multiple half marathons. These races are outside of my comfort zone. Growth comes when we challenge our comfort zone and live just on the other side of the edge. These races require me to commit to proper training and focus on the end result. Right now I have two half marathons under my feet for 2015: the Canton Pro Football Hall of Fame and Cleveland Rite Aid Half Marathons. I plan to finish the year with the Akron and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathons.

After 10 miles this past Sunday, I was prepared to breeze across the finish line. The challenges of the Shoreway forced me to refocus and draw upon my inner strengths. In the end, I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good about what I accomplished. It is that feeling that demonstrates the need for each of us to take on challenges. The path to the end goal may not be straight and known. It is often littered with other challenges. You will find yourself a much happier person when you take on increasingly grander challenges in your life.

Tom Bilcze

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