Hell on the Hill, even the name sounds intimidating. Hell on the Hill, or HOTH as the veteran runners call it, is considered the world’s official hilliest half marathon, with 8800 feet of combined ascent and decent. But here is the kicker… this isn’t an out-and-back run. This half marathon was on one hill. We ran up 0.1 miles and down 0.1 miles. Imagine 200 people running the same loop over and over, finally, crossing the finish line after 60 laps. That’s 200 crazy people who wanted to push themselves to the max, going “All in. All day.”
My Hell on the Hill
On Thursday, May 18th, I completed Hell on the Hill in about 3 hours. I actually didn’t know my time. This was probably the first race I’ve ever run where I didn’t look at my time because this event wasn’t about speed. It was about endurance and grit. The crazy part (actually the entire thing is crazy), it didn’t feel like 13.1 miles because the course was so small and broken down into small incremental pieces.
If you are a runner, this probably sounds like torture. However, what this loop created was a concentration of energy and encouragement. At the top of the hill, the volunteers called you by name. They greeted you with smiles, water, and fuel. The bottom of the hill was full of claps, cheering, and more smiles, water, and fuel. There was a DJ in the middle cranking out great tunes the entire race and each lap was run with a new friend. There wasn’t a dull moment during the entire race.
To help ensure it was the “official hilliest half marathon”, each lap was tracked by a computer and chip system. However, our location was out in the middle of Nowhereville, Georgia (actually Rome, GA). The internet connection was iffy so we went old-school as well with a handheld clicker. Each time I passed over the line, I clicked my clicker. There were so many amazing people on the hill but that clicker and I had a real (sweaty) bond 🙂
First lap complete, click, 59 more laps to go. Sheer exhilaration and excitement.
10 laps down, only 50 more to go. At this point, I thought about the words of my friend, Becky McConnell. She and I used to run together and she would say, “You can do anything for 5 more minutes.” And so I told myself, “You can do anything 50 more times!”
30 laps down – the halfway point! I was feeling so strong! All of my 29029 Everest training was showing up. I wasn’t fast but I was consistent. One foot at a time. This isn’t about being fast. It is about a steady, consistent step… one after the other. Slow and steady wins the race.
40 laps down – exhaustion started to hit me. I felt tired. My legs started to feel weak. My knee was hurting. This was a competition but I wasn’t competing with the other people on the hill. I was competing with my own thoughts. This was a battle of the mind. I knew my body was strong enough. Was my mind? Could I overcome the negative self-talk and endure 20 more laps? Fortunately, the answer came quickly and the energy rushed through my blood.
I wasn’t necessarily focused on lap 60. At lap 55 participants were given a bright green wristband to signify only 5 laps remaining. This was the point when encouragement jumped up a notch. I saw my new friends with their green band and I cheered louder for them. Fist bumps were flying. Nothing can stop a person with the green wristband. I was eager to get my wristband. Push harder. Go after it. Leave it all out on the hill.
55 laps down, green wristband on, and I could taste the victory of crossing the line O N E M O R E T I M E.
Overcoming the Challenges
For me, HOTH was 90% mental. I knew I had the stamina and endurance to complete the challenge. However, just like in life, at any moment our thoughts can take us off course. My knee was swelling with every lap. I started to feel so tired that I wanted to lie down and take a nap on the hill. Comparison crept in. Then old faithful peaked its ugly head saying, “I’m not good enough.”
I could have allowed any of these thoughts to stick around and linger. It would have been easy enough for them to fester and grow. Instead, I made the conscious decision to push them out of my mind.
When I noticed my knee swelling, I remembered my training. I shifted my weight to my core. The pain was alleviated.
When I was tired, I refueled with orange slices, watermelon, and electrolytes. My energy was restored.
When I started to compare myself with others, I remembered that I was in a big competition with no one else except myself. This challenge was for me and my mind. No one else. Nothing else.
When I started feeling “not good enough”, I went back to where the emotions started. These ideas are from my childhood traumas. These thoughts no longer serve me. Just thinking this (not necessarily believing it yet), helped me overcome and push past the negative thoughts.
I kept reminding myself that this, just like so much in life, is a mindset game. I get to make the choice of how I want to experience it.
- Success is accomplished by taking small consistent steps. It seems boring and mundane. It takes long hours, practice, grit, and determination. Getting to the finish line isn’t always pretty but it is rewarding.
- You can do anything you set your mind to do. This lesson keeps popping up in my world.
- With discipline, we can control our thoughts. Redirecting our thoughts isn’t always the first response. We have to be careful not to let negativity fester. Our mind and our body will do what we tell them to do if we are strong enough and brave enough.
- Sometimes we have to travel outside of our own local bubble to find what we need to get out of our comfort zones.
Anyone who has ever achieved anything had to overcome obstacles and hardships along their path. These are the LESSONS of the UNSTOPPABLE ones. Unstoppable Lessons shares the skills, techniques, and mindset necessary to face the challenges of our professional and personal lives. If we embrace the lessons and practice them, excuses will no longer have a place in our lives.
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