What gives you purpose?

Over the weekend I was involved in running an aid station for the Tarawera Ultra Marathon (TUM), a long-distance running event that takes in the amazing scenery of the lakes around Rotorua, New Zealand, where I live.

Our aid station, managed by our local Scouts group, was at Humphries Bay camp site, the half-way point for runners in the 102KM and the 160km events. The camp site is remote, with no road access, so us volunteers and piles of gear were ferried out there over Lake Tarawera for our 24 hr stint.

Now that the hard work of setting up, staying up and packing up is over, I’ve been reflecting on the experience and what a gift it has been to be involved.

Commitment, connection and participation

Now I’m no runner, and the thought of running the kinds of distances the TUM competitors do is in no way attractive to me. But, seeing people commit themselves so wholeheartedly to something, suffer so much and get so much out of their achievement is truly inspiring. Seeing that kind of commitment puts my own day-to-day challenges into perspective. It’s made me realize how much I’ve been holding myself back from commitment for fear of getting overloaded, and how much this has held me back from connection with people and purpose.

On the aid station we met around 500 competitors in the middle of one of the most challenging things they will ever do. Some were at or beyond their emotional and physical limits. To be able to support and connect with them at this raw and vulnerable time was very special. The volunteers and competitors band together to create an incredible community, working together in pursuit of a grand vision to achieve the seemingly impossible.

This made me realize why its important to be part of something that’s bigger than you are. Commitment to a cause enables connection, which facilitates personal growth. I’m not the type to get behind causes, nor do I have the drive to achieve physical goals, but for the first time I can see why many people do. It’s a shortcut to connection and personal growth, and as a coach that’s something I can get behind.

For a brief weekend I felt part of something – something with a grand vision, human suffering, and many stories of resilience and redemption, success and failure. What is life for if not to learn and grow through challenge?

(Photo: Lynmore Scout Group at the Humphries Bay Aid Station, Feb 2020)

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