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Lessons on top of a volcano.

Updated: Feb 16

Let me start by telling you I am not athletically inclined. I’m more of a book worm, a nerd. Sports, do not come easy to me. So, when I tell you that I have completed not 1, but 5 marathons. I hope you are suitably impressed - because I am.

In 2004 I signed up for the Honolulu Marathon through the Aids Project Los Angeles - one of those programs that train you and pay all expenses for the marathon. In exchange you agree to raise a certain amount of money for the APLA.

The first day of training we were placed in teams based upon our splits (how fast we could run, walk, or crawl a three mile test run). Over the next six months we would train together every week through heat, heat exhaustion, rain, muscle cramps, dehydration, blood, sweat, and tears. Oh so many tears. Over the months and the miles we shared our lives; our hopes and dreams, fears, angers and despairs. But most of all we shared the joy in our souls and forged bonds unrivaled.

Finally, the day arrived to leave for Hawaii. We met at Los Angeles International Airport. We were so excited; we’d never seen each other in real clothes before. The flight was abuzz with conversation, telling funny stories from training, rehashing injuries, and congratulating each other for making it this far.

The morning of the race was surreal; we met at 4:00 am to catch the shuttle to Ala Moana Beach park along with 25,000 other runners from all over the world. We lined up, middle of the pack for a 5:00 am start. Finally, the 10 minute warning sounds; “oh my goodness, this is it!” “Why did I do this, what was I thinking?” “26.2 miles?” “Am I crazy, I’m crazy.” 5 minute warning: “I’m really doing this!” “ I can do this.” “I am crazy, but I can do this.” 1 minute warning, my teammates and I join hands, yelling ”Livestrong," our chosen team name (Lance Armstrong was big that year and we were sporting those yellow rubber Livestrong bracelets) . The start horn sounds and we begin running - In place. There are 12,000 people in front of us. It would take us another 10-15 minutes to reach the start.

Eventually we do - we cross the start, run through downtown Honolulu, along Waikiki beach, through Kapiolani Park and begin the ascent up Diamond Head volcano. It took all I had to get up that mountain. I'm not going to lie - that mountain kicked my butt; I wasn’t sure I’d make it up the other side on the return trip.

However, as I reached the pinnacle, I saw the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean. Sunlight twinkling on the waters like brilliant diamonds . Against this backdrop a remarkable athlete - Jimmy Muindi crested the volcano from the other direction - a perfect example of synergistic energy; body and breath in complete harmony with nature.

he seemed to glide above the pavement, a combination of human athlete and industrial steam engine. His long, ropey muscles contracting and releasing with each stride, Faint beads of perspiration the only evidence of exertion.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, looking neither left nor right, focusing on the last 2 miles before him. Yet, as he neared his energy seemed to encompass those around him, giving encouragement, motivation to continue, telling us to give it our all - it would be worth it. Right there, that exact moment is when realization struck. Jimmy Muindi and I were the same!

Let me explain: It would have been easy for me to compare myself unfavorably to this human gazelle; he would finish the marathon in 2:11, setting a new course record. I would finish in 6:30 minutes, almost exactly 3 times longer. Yet, only 1% of the population completes a marathon. By that definition, I am an elite athlete.

What I saw that day on top of that volcano was two people running together at the peak of their individual ability, facing the same challenges and relishing in the same victories. Two elite athletes each running their own race.

That day, that epiphany, Jimmy Muindi, created in me a profound, life altering shift in perception. What you perceive is your reality, are you a glass half empty, or glass half full kind of person? Either way, you’re correct, because you create your reality. That day I saw myself as a WINNER!

Every day since then, I have known that I am a winner, as long as I suit up and show up, give it all I have to give, I will always win - maybe not first place, maybe not a medal at all, but in life. I will always win in life. The only way I can lose is if I don’t try. That’s not going to happen, BECAUSE I AM AN ELITE ATHLETE!

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