What’s your “world’s toughest race?”

What’s your “world’s toughest race?”

May 1, 2021 0 By Rick

That might sound like a strange title for a blog post. And maybe it is. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time. I recently watched the 2020 edition of Eco-Challenge Fiji, billed as the world’s toughest race. And believe me, it is! “The race was contested by 66 teams of four from around the world. The race encompassed trekking by foot and traveling in various non-motorized forms of transportation, including paddling and sailing in an outrigger, paddle-boarding, mountain biking, and white-water rafting, requiring skills such as rappelling, climbing and canyoneering. No modern technology can be used in navigation, and only a map and compass were provided. Expedition problem-solving skills were required to meet any challenges the teams may encounter along the way. All members of a team must complete the race; should any team member quit or cannot complete the race, the entire team would be eliminated,” according to the Eco-Challenge website. The website forgot to mention that it takes place over 11 days in some of Fiji’s most challenging terrain. I became fascinated with the “toughest races/battles” being fought by some contestants within the race itself. 

Toughest battles within the race
It got me thinking about how we all have our own “world’s toughest race” and the various shapes this battle can take. I’ve undertaken and completed many tough challenges in my life. I’ve also failed miserably at many more than I’ve completed. All the race contestants were incredible, but a few of them (no names will be mentioned) stood out to me because of the stories of why they were competing. There was a team of veteran adventure-racers, most if not all of them in their 60s. They were way past their prime but got together one more time because it might be their last adventure-race challenge. There were a few father-daughter and father-son teams, but I was in awe of one father-son team in particular. The father, a 67-year-old long-time adventure-racer who had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, wanted one last challenge before this horrible disease took control of him. The son, also a long-time adventure-racer, gave up his place on one of the more competitive teams to compete with his dad on a much-less competitive team one last time. 

Other examples
There was a woman who had drowned in a white-water rafting accident and been brought back to life. She was there to tackle her fear of white-water rafting head-on. Another female competitor who had won seven Ironman Triathlons before suffering a major depression that required weeks of hospitalization was using this race to help her get back on her feet. Another competitor was still dealing with his father’s suicide, and another team of three females and one male (it’s usually the other way around) was racing in honor of a previous teammate who had lost her battle with cancer. I don’t know how many times I cried during this 10-episode series. They were incredible. They were warriors.

Society talks about heroes and warriors and places them on pedestals as if they were superhumans. But we seem to forget that we are all heroes and warriors in our own way. Warriors come in all shapes and sizes and are found everywhere. And what about everyday warriors? How do we define them? Aren’t we all warriors to some degree? I believe that each of us possesses an inner warrior that can perform tremendous deeds for others and for ourselves, but I may be in the minority here. The fact of the matter is that we can’t really agree on what constitutes a warrior or how to define a warrior. So, let’s take a look at what makes a warrior, beginning with traditional characteristics. 

As it turns out, it’s even challenging to agree on the general characteristics of a warrior. Most people attribute the following traits to warriors, however: Confidence, strength, discipline, courage, aggressiveness, relentlessness, grit, persistence and patience. Warriors can fight and protect themselves and have the discipline and strength to set goals and achieve them. But they are much more than that, in my opinion. They are like a 50-year-old battling cancer who wrote: “I get up each morning and remind myself that I’m going to be swollen, tired and nauseous. So, if I get something done, like epoxy on the hatches of the kayak I’m building, it’s a great day. Or if I get through all my (liquid) food, it’s a great day. Or if one of our cats comes up to say hello, rubs itself on my leg and settles down for a nap near me … yep: great day!” There are many others like him battling pain, discomfort and disease every day. Or how about single parents working several jobs to put food on the table for their children and give them a good education? Or people who have lost a parent, spouse or God forbid, a child and continue to soldier on? These people are warriors, too. All these everyday warriors are competing in their world’s toughest race daily!

My world’s toughest race
So, what is my world’s toughest race? Clearly, its battling the ravages of time. It’s trying to hold on to the world I know while watching it change all around me. It’s trying to bridge generational fences to understand new technology, concepts, attitudes and cultural norms. It’s battling the numbing of my senses as my hearing, vision and balance continue to circle the drain the drain of life. But I’m OK with that. It’s the nature of the beast in this great game of life. In the end, if you’re living your truth and you believe in yourself, that’s all you need. You can refuse to allow the inevitable end to interfere with your pursuit of happiness, adventure and challenges. What’s your world’s toughest race?