Suffering brings communities together

This weekend I (Barton) got to be a part of something incredible. I got to crew my wife, with two of her running friends, through her first 100-mile run. Well, I should actually call it what it is - 100 miles'ish. In 34 hours they ran 173.70km, 5940m in elevation gain and non-stop rain (bar maybe 3 hours where the rain let off), through a cold and wet night and only stopping to refuel (eat), fill up their packs with energy (food) and to give me (and the dogs) a kiss.

I share this not just because I want to gloat about how amazing my wife is (she is). I share it because there are lessons and things I learned in being a part of this experience that I believe is vital to us as people.

On October 24th Sarah was out on the trails celebrating one of her friends 40th birthday. Yes, for his birthday he got a crew of people together to run 170km. What was amazing about this is that the human condition is truly one of suffering. Yet, it is that suffering and challenge that actually brings out humanity. It brings people together in ways that you can not get sitting in a warm comfortable lounge room, you can not even get this comradery and connection over a beautifully planned dinner party. No, it can only exist from looking deep inside yourself and working out what you have got, then at that point finding a little bit extra to support those around you.

You see, to begin with, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities OR most commonly in our modern experience, happy to put ourselves in the situation where physical suffering is guaranteed (100-mile run could fall into this category). But generally, our physical condition plays a secondary role in which if the body is content we virtually ignore it. What I found amazing about watching these 3 getting through their 100-miles is that they accepted and embraced their physical suffering, whilst continually willing themselves through their mental suffering.

Like the first day, the night & the second day went on, I never felt that any of them broke. They got close and tried to find their limits, but none of them cracked under the pressure. I couldn't help but notice their Zen-like power to run into each checkpoint, refuel without allowing the pain and discomfort they were going through to take over their minds.

What I noticed, the most evident thing in this whole time, was that it is the struggle that brings people together. The collective challenge is what pushed these 3 to find their limits, but the struggle brought over 30 people out on a cold, wet weekend to support. To cheer, run some km's, feed, find shelter, do the thinking and provide hot chips. When everything is going against you, when you are suffering the most, people naturally want to bind together.

We have faced a wet training week this week. It is sometimes hard, uncomfortable and can make you feel like you don't want to be there. But it is in these moments when it is at it's most uncomfortable that we learn 2 primary lessons.
1. We learn that we are far more resilient than you ever would have imagined.
2. We connect with people in a way we ordinarily couldn't, just through this shared experience.

There is real beauty in these mammoth efforts. I encourage you to follow Sarah's lead, explore the comfort in discomfort, embrace the suck and see what is on the other side!

Sarah finishing a 170km Run