Lately one of the things I’ve changed in my life, and like setting goals, I used to think it was a bunch of crap, is trying to be more of a Giver instead of just a Taker. Giving and doing for others always came from people I didn’t want to listen to, usually for many reasons, so when this topic came out I always just discounted it as more crap being spewed to spam my brain. Fortunately I’ve come across enough people lately that I do respect, saying the same thing, and it’s completely true. The more you do/give, the more you get in return.
I made a comment while texting my dad this week about karma biting your butt and he came back and said “Don’t believe in any karma, but what you sow you will reap. We all have to do better…” Yep, I knew better since I was raised Christian in Southern churches, as far away from Buddhism as can be, and I don/t follow his beliefs. I use it just as a short way to say the same thing, I need to find a new word. However, this post isn’t about telling you what I’ve done for others, but what karma, destiny, fate, kismet, or whatever you believe in, can do for you and why you should become a Giver.
This past week I’ve had good things come in many ways, but one revolving around running just keeps snowballing. Last Sunday I was on a small group run with some friends, all of them are super stellar runners and kick my arse in races, including the gals. This is called getting “chicked,” and I’m just used to it by now because I know too many awesome female runners, that’s another post for the future though. Surprisingly they were all running slow, by their standards, so I was able to hang and chat, it’s always great to learn from others. The subject of future races came up and when it rotated around to me I said that “I don’t know, there are 4-5 I’d register for right now if money were no object. But at Christmas and just having to have bought a new car, I just couldn’t swing them all, including the one next week.” Before I could even get out the next sentence of which I thought I could do, one of the guys, Dan, jumps in and says “You want my bib? I’m injured still and thought I could do it or even some of it, but there is no point, take it.” I couldn’t believe it first of all, so I checked and double checked and he said that he would give it until Wednesday and let me know, and he’d email the race director to clear it and get me switched over. Here we were 6 days out from a 50k ultra-marathon, that’s 31+ miles to you and me, and I may be a last minute entry. I had spent months training for a marathon, mentally and physically, and by the time he would confirm with me that he wasn’t doing it, which he did a day earlier than he said, it was 4 days away.
Saturday comes and I’ve set the alarm for 3:00AM and then drove over an hour to get to the Mad Marsh 50k in South Carolina. I was excited because I really didn’t have a goal for this race, though I wanted to beat my time on the same course from 6 months before at Bad Marsh 50k, which is on the first day of summer , in the South, in June and at night, so shouldn’t be too hard given those factors, plus I was in better shape now. I hadn’t factored in how running at night on a trail would affect me then, so I thought maybe I could get under 6 hours this time. I didn’t, and I don’t even care, though I did beat the time so yay, new PR for me. I blogged on my family site about Bad Marsh 50k in a race recap and one of the things I talked about was the volunteers, but there is no way to convey in a blog post how different they are at an ultra, or how ultras are in general, to a big race like Rock n Roll or RunDisney. In these big races we run through feed zones, usually once, and there is a line of faceless volunteers that hold out cups of water or Gatorade, or gel packs to eat. You see them 2 seconds at best, grab whatever they have, try to get out a “thank you for being here” as you chug whatever they handed you, and you never see them again. Ultras are completely different, especially loop courses, because there are one or more aid stations on the course, and they are stocked WAY better, with several drink options, and real food, not just gels packs. I wish I had snapped a pic. There are volunteers there and you get to see them over and over, often you know them because it’s a smaller community and in many cases they are a spouse of a runner on the course, so they know more about what you need. In this race they were all awesome, but like my first ultra, one seemed to take on the role as “my” caregiver.
Mary Jo, she isn’t a blogger so I don’t have a link, went over and above her duties to get me back on course each lap. I’m sure it wasn’t just me she did this with, but before I was 30′ from the aid station, I could hear her yelling “Marc! What do you need” and holding her hand up waiving me in like a NASCAR pit crew, her bright yellow shirt helped her stand out from the rest of the blur. I’d screw the top off my water bottle and hand it and the lid to her while I went past to the food table shoving whatever I could grab into my mouth, and before I could swallow it she was tightening the lid and handing it back to me asking “What else do you need? What can I get for you?” Later on I somehow injured my knee, and don’t remember when. I think it was early on when I caught it on a vine running too far off the edge of the trail and my leg got pulled backwards from me. I didn’t think about it at the time but that may have been the start, then running uneven trails just made it worse. I was getting slower and had to take some walking breaks, starting back to a run was painful, sometimes I couldn’t even get into a run so I went back to a walk again. On the 6th lap out of 7 I texted the race director Tim, the same guy that helped me out from Rock n Roll Marathon, and asked if he had some type of wrap or support. What I didn’t say is that if he didn’t I’d be bailing on the last lap and getting my first DNF, which would suck royally and I’d feel like I wasted the bib Dan had given me, but I was biting my lip trying to get through some downhill or twisty sections where it hurt bad. Tim texted and said he did, and when I wrote back to say I was still 2 miles out so would be a bit, he said ‘”Mary Jo has it at the aid station.” When I got within eyesight she was holding it up over her head, flagging me in so I could get back out for the last 4.5mi lap. Oh yeah, Dan also made the hour plus drive, despite being injured and not running the race, to volunteer and took race photos, check out what an ultra looks like here.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do with the support Mary Jo had gotten, or been given to give me. What she handed me was a strap not much wider than a watch band, with velcro on each end and slits to apparently poke one end through the other and tighten it somehow, but they were on both ends, so I didn’t know which went where, or how this thing would even help me, I HAD just run 27 miles so might not have been thinking or seeing clearly. I had envisioned an ACE bandage to wrap or wide neoprene type sleeve that would slide up the leg and support for several inches above and below the knee, this thing looked like a thong. Then one of my other runner friends Bren, he’d already killed it on his race having just lapped me about a mile out and was sitting resting, I think saw the frustration in my face. He said “I’ve got a knee brace, you want to try it?” So I hobbled over to him and sat on a cooler as he dug it out his race bag and watched me put it on backwards, then fix it. It was nice and tight. Before, when I was walking and felt like I could run, it had been extremely painful to get transitioned from walking to running, but once running I didn’t feel as much pain, so I hated to stop and walk. I think pain sucks energy from you though so I just couldn’t stay at a run and I walked that 6th lap a good bit, it was where I had texted for help and considered if I should stop when I got back. The knee brace helped stop all of that. I still had some pain, but it was much more manageable and the transition from walk to run was far easier, I was able to stay at a run much better again and not quit a 31 mile race with only 4.5 miles to go.
I can’t say “THANK YOU” enough to Dan, Mary Jo, and Bren! I wouldn’t have even gotten to do this race at all without Dan, though I’m sorry that it took him being injured to make it happen. Mary Jo took such great care of me, the aid station was much less confusing for me this race, and I wasted little time in there so got back on course quickly and saved several minutes over what I wasted at Bad Marsh trying to figure it all out. If you read my post from Bad Marsh I linked above, you’ll see that the aid station was new to me and pretty confusing and crowded at times, this didn’t happen even once this time. Bren kept me from getting my first DNF, because I wasn’t certain what was causing my knee pain, walking 4.5 miles of trail just so I could say “I finished” wasn’t very appealing, and I didn’t want to make it worse and have knee problems for a month. As I write this with a day+ of rest, I can barely remember the pain, only the good times and feeling of accomplishment and thanks to everyone. This must be what they say childbirth is like for women, in that you don’t remember the pain afterward, only the good parts.
I’ve been “receiving” so much lately that it makes me feel like I’m a Taker. Giving really works though, and it doesn’t always work in a 1-1 ratio and it doesn’t always happen back and forth with the same people. I’ve only been a Taker with Dan, Mary Jo, and Bren because they are amazing Givers, in other cases I was the sole Giver and with no anticipation of wanting something in return from them. You can’t look at it like that because it doesn’t work that way. Believe it or not, I can’t make you do it, but it does truly work in wonderful ways. I can’t even believe how many good things have been happening lately, I just can’t explain it. If you become a Giver, you will STILL be a Taker because you’ll have many other Givers in your life, so why not be both?! It’s weird, but you will be both. A friend of mine, Chef Robert Irvine from the Food Network is the epitome of being a Giver and I know it works for him, I’ve seen it many times first hand. Almost every Sunday he tweets something like this,
Good morning everyone and happy Sunday . May you and your families have a blessed day and please do something for the less fortunate
Are you a Giver and feel like you get more than you give? Are a Taker and jaded on people like I was, lets talk about it because I know where you’re coming from and probably still have some of that in me, I grew up an only child and we’re sterotypically selfish. Maybe you know how to wear this “knee thong” and can explain it to me the next time I need one! What word do you use like karma, I could use a new one. Let me know in the comments below and please share with your friends, especially the Takers that need to be pushed off the fence.