Every year, a day rolls around where I and many others in Madison feel 50 times more hungover and lazy than we actually are. It’s the day of Ironman Wisconsin.
On my way to work at the Herald this Sunday, I had to avoid roped-off streets, backed-up traffic and increased police roadblocks until I was finally able to reach State Street. It was there that I paused and watched some of the most dedicated athletes in the United States running the final stretches of a grueling endurance test. These people started off their day swimming 2.4 miles in Lake Monona. Then they voluntarily biked 112 miles. Now, they were completing a full marathon through the city of Madison. By the end of the night, a handsome percentage of these people would be shitting and pissing themselves because their bodies would literally shut down on them.
I, meanwhile, had started off my day as many of these people would end theirs: shitting violently. This was not due to exercise, however. It was because the night before, I had decided it would be a good idea to drink — among many other things — something called a “Straw-Ber-Ita.” I apparently also thought it was a good idea to end my night shoving sesame chicken into my mouth before falling asleep.
As I watched these kings and queens of endurance, I realized that I had woken up hungover three days in a row. I realized that the last time I had exercised was well over a week ago. I realized that after only a week of class I had already fallen behind on readings. I realized that I didn’t even have the textbooks for these classes. I realized that I had lost touch with a decent number of my friends who were very important to me throughout my first couple years of college. I realized that maybe I should be less shitty of a person.
Normally, I do not think of myself as a shitty person. I consider myself a compassionate and productive member of society. But as I stood there, watching these endurance beasts run past me while my head felt like a sack of bricks, I was struck by how dedicated these people were to pursuing an insane goal of traveling 140.6 miles by swimming, biking and running. These people were able to accomplish something most of us will never do in our entire lives. They were attempting something extremely difficult and actually accomplishing it.
After watching for a while, I made a lengthy to-do list of things I wanted to get done. The list included trivial things like “buy textbooks” and “clean room” and “get coffee with (insert name here).” After watching these people push themselves to the point of involuntary defecation, these simple tasks that I had been putting off for a long time seemed a lot less difficult.
I have a friend who once did mushrooms and watched hours’ worth of YouTube videos of people running marathons. He decided to join a track club and competed in various races throughout the Midwest over the following year. Like me, he was inspired by this superhuman endurance and decided to make positive changes to his life. While I don’t plan on joining a track club any time soon, I’ve come into this week tackling problems headfirst, with the understanding that conflicts and obligations — be they related to school, work or my social life — are all pretty insignificant and relatively easy to deal with.
So, what have I learned from this? I guess it’s this: If you’re ever feeling hopeless or feel like the things you have to accomplish in life are just too much, go to YouTube and watch some videos of people running marathons, skiing hundreds of miles, swimming long distances or completing Ironman triathlons. You’ll realize that your life isn’t so hard. You might be hungover today, but there’s always tomorrow to start working on not being a shithead.