When I first started running, I didn’t have a need for a mantra. Then, I discovered racing, and I found that having a word to cling to as I pushed myself to the limit was useful. Originally, I clung to the word transcend as if the ethereal sound would help me float through difficulties; now I see it as a powerful cousin of the word grit.
To transcend is to dig deep, push forward, and move beyond. No matter the obstacle, we can transcend it and become stronger for it.
I had no idea how far transcend would take me. This word has helped propel me over countless finish lines and toward countless goals, many of which I was once sure I would never achieve.
When I undertook training for my first marathon, I used the word transcend as a way to acknowledge pain and then move beyond it. I had never tackled more than 13.1 miles when I decided to run a marathon. During my first 15-miler, I was surprised by how hard those extra two miles felt. I just kept repeating transcend the pain, Ali, acknowledge it and move on, and when that 15-miler was complete, I felt invincible!
When I ran my second marathon, I was far better trained and ready to smash a new PR. A freak heat wave and cloudless day – the kind that only happens in December in Florida – destroyed my goal. Reminding myself that I could transcend the situation kept me going. This particular race was a double loop, and at the end of the first 13.1 miles I just wanted to cross the finish line and be done…but I knew I couldn’t let myself do that. Even if I let go of my time goal, I couldn’t let myself quit.
I dug deep to transcend the disappointment, the physical and mental pain, and the misery. I finished. And the power of that finish pushed me into an unplanned third marathon and a new PR.
It also led me to the hilliest, hardest half marathon of my life. (Yes, there are places in Florida where hills are real!) I had yet to learn my lesson about running long distance races in the springtime in the south, and I paid for this one with a smile on my face. I was once again rewarded with the knowledge that I am capable of transcending discomfort to strengthen my inner lioness.
It has been in the recent struggle with exertional compartment syndrome that I have truly learned the meaning of the word. I can transcend fear. I can transcend pain. I can transcend anguish and disappointment and hopelessness.
I can keep moving forward to find an answer. I learned to adjust my running during the diagnostic process, and was rewarded for transcending with one of the most enjoyable, fun, and downright happiest races of my life!
Now that I know I will be having surgery to correct my injury, I am looking forward to transcending the healing process and coming out the other side stronger and more determined than ever.
The thing about transcending a tough situation is that it makes you stronger for the next one. It teaches you that obstacles are something to be strategically dealt with. We can’t always ignore them; sometimes we can’t dig under them or climb right over them. We can’t always control circumstances, but we can control our reaction to them. We can look setbacks in the face and find a solution, and the act of doing so makes us stronger.