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  • Dan Connors

Mo Cowbell- the marathon of life

Courtesy MO Cowbell Marathon

I've always been a bicycling enthusiast, but have rarely kept track of all my rides. Riding is physically, mentally and spiritually therapeutic for me and I'd do it all year if mother nature would cooperate.

For 2019 I decided to track my outings with an app and set myself a goal- 1,000 miles for the warmer biking season. I would do it in one or two hour excursions all year and that would give me something so shoot for. Imagine my surprise when I started creeping up on that goal in mid October, with plenty of time left in the year.

I broke the 1,000 mile mark while on the Katy Trail, a fantastic rails to trails state park that's not too far from my home. The Katy is a 237 mile long bike trail, converted from a railroad, that goes from near St. Charles and follows the Missouri River most of the way across the state of Missouri. No bells or whistles went off as I crossed the threshold, but something else odd happened that day.

At the same time as I was riding, I noticed large numbers of runners sharing the trail with me. There were hundreds of them, all with numbers attached to their shirts, running what turned out to be a marathon. They looked beat and some were down to walking, but they were all moving, some 3 hours after the marathon had already begun.

Marathons have always intimidated me. What was the appeal of these 26.2 mile ordeals that people all over the world seemed to flock towards? I have ridden 26 mile bike rides all at once, and they can be draining unless I stop and rest at least once. I can't imagine the amount of determination that it takes to run that far.

A week earlier, I had seen the movie, Brittany Runs a Marathon, about a young lady who gets herself in shape and transforms her life with the goal of running in a marathon. It was an inspiring and well-made film and made me think. Why would running for hours on end transform one's life?

Here is the trailer.

Upon further research, this is a common thread among marathon runners. There are hundreds of stories online about people who were transformed by running in general and marathons in particular. The camaraderie among other runners, the encouragement from the sidelines, and the joy of crossing the finish line transform ordinary people into Olympic athletes. No wonder they feel transformed.

The folks running the marathon that day were taking part in the MO Cowbell marathon, an annual event that takes place in St. Charles and along the Katy Trail. As I went by the start and finish line near Frontier Park, I saw the giant archway that signified both the beginning and the end. There were people along the route cheering for each runner as they crossed the finish line, and a giant cowbell that people could have themselves photographed next to while they rang it. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to cross that finish line, but seeing the joy on people's faces gave me some idea.

As an avid cyclist, there was no way I was going to be training for any marathons any time soon, but the events of that day gave me pause. I've always believed that enjoying life's adventures was way more important than hitting an impossible looking goal. Reaching goals is hard, but I've always been a believer in goals. I set some every day. There's something about a difficult, transformational goal that's different than your every day goals, especially if you commit to it publicly and join others in the journey.

So now I'm on day three of my own transformational goal- to write 50,000 pithy words in the month of November along with thousands of other Nanowrimos. And to make each of those words matter. And to spread them far and wide to see what difference they make. No marathons for me, but perhaps I'll shoot for 1500 miles on my bike next year. By testing our limits, we find new ways to discover who we are and what we're capable of.


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