15677 Steps To Personal Discovery

Taking on a physical challenge can be a great way to discover your strengths and weaknesses and to further you pursuit of personal growth and discovery. While our day-to-day lives are full of challenges, most of which are unavoidable and not of our choosing, sometimes we need to go out of our way to find a way to push ourselves to the limit both physically and mentally. Today I'd like to discuss an endurance race I participated in recently. It was a great experience for me personally and something I highly recommend to others.

The race I competed in was a Rogain. For those unfamiliar with this type of event, it's an endurance sport involving long distance cross country navigation. Using only a compass, a map and a clue sheet, competitors need to work in teams to navigate to as many "checkpoints" as possible within 24 hours. The course we covered was in mountainous, heavily wooded terrain and the weather conditions were challenging as well - a hot sunny day followed by thick fog then torrential rain during the night-time hours.

So what did I get out of such a punishing physical ordeal? I discovered an inner strength which I didn't realize was there. To be completely honest, I was very nervous immediately before the race. Two of my fellow team members were marathon runners and a third had spent time in the military, running around in the wilderness for a living. I was worried I'd be too slow - that I'd hold everybody else back - or that my fairly basic navigation skills would get us lost. Add to this all of the energy powders, gels and sports drinks the other guys were packing, which made my muesli bars, sandwiches, fruit and water seem completely inadequate.

But as the afternoon turned to evening and then to night and as the fog and then rain rolled in, I found myself not only keeping up but even encouraging other team members at various times. That's not to say I wasn't hurting - I was in pain as well. My "weatherproof" gear turned out to not to be. I was soaked to the skin only one hour into the six hour downpour. My muscles were aching and my feet were blistered and bruised from the rough terrain. But my mind was clear. I hadn't got us lost and I'd even managed to lead the team directly onto a number of checkpoints. Even with the physical fatigue and the lack of sleep, I was not only surviving - I was still competing. A big difference, certainly in my mind, if not in reality. I never got to the point where it was merely survival. I maintained a positive attitude and was always looking for ways to reach more checkpoints and score more points.

And the big surprise was that I actually enjoyed it. Despite the physical discomfort and the poor weather conditions, I was having fun. More than that, it was satisfying a deep need to test my physical and mental boundaries. It was a feeling that lasted beyond the weekend of the race. In the days and weeks which followed, I found I had a new level of self confidence and self esteem. I was walking taller (if you'll pardon the cliche). The relationship with my teammates had strengthened as well. Spending so much time together in such arduous conditions had brought us closer together. We'd been able to support each other through our down periods - and we all has those. We'd worked as a team and shared a great life experience.

Now I'm hooked. I sought out a new experience and liked it so much that I'm now a regular competitor. I've convinced other friends to try it as well. The message here is to try something new - step outside your comfort zone. You never know what you'll find out there. It doesn't have to be some crazy adventure race. There are plenty of other ways to challenge yourself. The icing on the cake in this story of personal discovery is that we won our category of the event.


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