Finding joy during an arduous uphill run | SierraSun.com

Finding joy during an arduous uphill run

Amber Finch
Special to the Sun
Submitted PhotoAmber Finch of Truckee nears the top of the Pikes Peak Marathon, at more than 14,000 feet.
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Here I am, 6:30 a.m., standing with my dad and his friend Dennis, nervous with anticipation of the race about to begin and#8212; 13.5 miles and 7,800 feet of elevation gain to the top of Pikes Peak, at 14,200 feet.

I say somewhat sarcastically to them, and#8220;When Iand#8217;m running in pain, I will think of you two and how you only wish you could be out there getting tortured!and#8221; They have both run this race before; in fact, this was to be our fourth annual Pikes Peak Ascent together. Unfortunately, my dad was in a biking accident and Dennis has recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

So, here I am running solo but with a new focus. This time I will be grateful that I can be tortured. What an opportunity, right?

I strip off my long-sleeve shirt to reveal my self-made tank top. It reads and#8220;This oneand#8217;s for you dad,and#8221; and on the back, and#8220;Thank you Jesus.and#8221; With tears in his eyes, he wishes me luck and now surrounded by 2,000 people I am feeling rather alone in my thoughts.

If I look at this towering mountain before me, my mind says there is no way I can run to the top. But I have learned that the mind is a powerful tool that has the ability to override negativity and self-doubt. If I can focus on getting through the here and now, I donand#8217;t feel overwhelmed by the big picture.

The race begins and the first 10 miles went by fairly quick, but by the last few I really had to keep my theme in mind: and#8220;Be glad you have the opportunity to be here.and#8221; Yes, find joy in this moment. I think of all the people Iand#8217;ve lost in my life; they wonand#8217;t have a chance to feel this pain. I think of sick friends; they donand#8217;t get the opportunity to challenge their bodies.

As I look around, I forget about my pain and take in the beautiful wildflowers, smell the mountain air and listen to the breeze rustling through the aspens and#8212; and it occurs to me that this life will go on no matter what happens to me or to those around me. The flowers will bloom, the seasons will change, and we are lucky enough to experience their beauty.

The last few miles are above timberline, zigzagging through rock gardens and over steep boulders. I refuse to look up at what I have yet to climb and keep glancing down to remind myself how far Iand#8217;ve come. I cannot quit now. I put one step ahead of the other, one foot at a time; my body aches and wants to stop.

Suddenly, crowds of people begin to appear near the top, yelling out words of encouragement. I hear my dad yell, and#8220;Go Amber!and#8221; I finally cross the finish and literally collapse. and#8220;Thank you Jesus,and#8221; I say with a breath of relief. Thank you that I can feel life and that I have a body that can endure such a feat.

At the end of the day, this mountain will always be here. And it has shown me that if I put my mind to something, anything can be accomplished and#8212; and with a sense of gratitude! Iand#8217;m thankful that I can find the joy in the midst of suffering.

and#8212; Amber Finch is a Truckee resident and the wife of professional snowboarder Andy Finch.