I beg your indulgence for one more story from my incredible Antarctic adventure.
As I said initially, our ship was bursting at the seams with amazing people from all over the world. Everyone on our ship had waited a minimum of at least four years to make this epic journey. The waiting list to make the difficult journey is long, and Antarctica has very strict rules about activities there. Regardless, each person had set a goal of completing a full or half marathon on this forbidding continent. As I stated in previous blogs, the Antarctic Marathon was, without question, the most difficult race I have ever completed. Finishing such a tough course is never a foregone conclusion.
Thom Gilligan, race director and mastermind of this crazy adventure, had a hard and fast rule: If a participant wished to convert their event from the full to half marathon (26.2 miles to 13.1 miles) after the first lap (of three) of this grueling course, they could do so without shame. BUT, if anyone chose to run past the halfway mark and subsequently could not complete the full distance, they would not get credit for either the full or half marathon. Because Antarctica’s weather can change within minutes and make travel dangerous, officials had strict time-cutoffs for the safety of the racers and staff. If you miss the time cut-off, you are pulled off the course no matter how close to the finish line you are.
Meet Jim Abilla, a Philippine native who lives in California and owns a water distribution plant in the Philippines. Jim had set a goal of completing the full marathon in Antarctica. He was an experienced runner, having completed many other marathons successfully.
The weather conditions and course conspired against Jim on marathon day. After passing the halfway mark at the designated cut-off time, Jim found himself off pace by the 18-mile mark. The race director reminded Jim that he may not be able to complete the race by the designated cutoff time.
The marathon is an interesting beast – an event in which a person’s mental state is as or more important than their physical state or condition. Once Jim began to doubt his ability to finish, the thought was difficult to shake. He called it quits at 18 miles, even knowing that he would get no credit for either the half or full marathon.
But in the back of Jim’s mind he thought: “Am I really willing to have traveled all the way to Antarctica only to return empty-handed? “
After his failure to complete the official course and watching the victors revel in their accomplishments, Jim created a plan to rectify his situation.
The day after our marathon, while the rest of the marathon runners went on an Antarctic peninsula excursion, Jim and his lovely, supportive wife, Margaret, silently stayed behind on the ship so he could complete a FULL MARATHON aboard the vessel. He ran more than 550 laps around our relatively small Russian research vessel as Margaret counted each lap to verify his accomplishment! Remember, he ran 18 grueling miles the day before. Once the rest of us returned to the ship and realized what Jim was attempting, we gave him a hero’s welcome at the finish line!
Jim’s example teaches us that setting realistic goals can
be a wonderful motivator to keep us on track with our lifestyle improvement program. More importantly, minor setbacks become just mere nuisances if we are truly committed to our stated goals. Once we are able to ignore the setback and persevere toward our goal, the reward is so much sweeter.
Thanks to Jim, Hein, Bill and all of my travel mates who taught me so many lessons about life and motivation!