To Be The Strongest

I recently wrote about my wife Mandi, who suffers from Fybromyalgia, Polyarthritis, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), Cervical Spondylosis, and Osteoarthritis.  As a result, she cannot walk very far!  She has never stopped me from walking, but always wished that she could join me.

She felt she was a failure because she could not walk very well and that even if she did, would not get very far.  I explained that walking was not all about the distance or the height.  It was about the achievement.  As a result, she set herself a challenge to try and walk one mile.  Her target time frame was not a couple of weeks or months, but a couple of years.  That’s how big this challenge was to her.

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The article I wrote – ‘Mandi’s One Mile Challenge‘ follows her on the day she achieved this challenge.

It was not until a few weeks later that I started thinking about what she had achieved.  It was also around this time that I came across a passage in a book called La bibliotecaria de Auschwitz (The Librarian of Auschwitz) by Antonio Iturbe.  I started to equate this to many other people who cannot achieve what they wish for whatever reason.

The passage reads as follows:

The strongest athlete isn’t the one who finishes first.  That athlete is the fastest.  The strongest athlete is the one who gets up again every time he falls, the one who doesn’t stop when he feels a pain in his side, the one who doesn’t abandon the race, no matter how far away the finish line is.  That runner is a winner whenever he reaches the finish line, even if he comes in last.  Sometimes, no matter how much you want it, being the fastest isn’t an option, because your legs aren’t as long or your lungs as large.  But you can always choose to be the strongest.  It’s up to you – your willpower and your effort.  I’m not going to ask you to be the fastest, but I am going to require you to be the strongest.

I come across this situation frequently.  Many of the people I talk to, in an attempt to get them to venture outdoors, claim there is little or no point because if they tried, they will never achieve a lot.  They have a lack of confidence due, in the most part, to social media peer pressure.

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I find it very hard to convince many of them that we are not talking about walking the South Downs Way or even completing one of my 5-6-mile walks.  Even when I offer to take some of them out for a very short stroll, they decline because they do not wish to ‘hold me back!

What I try to get across to them is that it is not about the distance, but the fact that if you take just one step you will have made an amazing effort.  All they have to do then, is just take one more step, and they are on the road to a walk.

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As in the case of Mandi.  One mile was all she would probably ever achieve, but if she worked hard and achieved that one-mile walk, then she had proved to herself that she was as strong as me.  Not because she had walked as far as me, but because she had walked as far as she reasonably could.  Her 1 mile was the equivalent to my 25 miles.

An OS Champion colleague of mine – Sean Conway recently gave a pre-dinner talk to a gathering of the Champions.  He talked about his desire to achieve the three F’s – First, Furthest, Fastest.  He achieved his FFF after many years of planning, training and failed attempts before finally grasping success from the jaws of failure.

Mandi has a similar term that kept her going.  It was not FFF but FFS – and I will leave you to work out what that means!

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