Feature Article - The Fine Art of Endurance-The Kokoda Challenge.
The Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea is a place of great importance in Australian History. In World War II, the Kokoda track was a part of the push by Australians to prevent the advance of the Japanese.
More than 600 Australians were killed and some 1,680 wounded during perhaps the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II. The crucial triumphs along the Kokoda Track stemmed the Japanese tide of conquests and the bloody beachside battles signalled the enemys final and irreversible loss of military initiative. By the end of January 1943, the path of future conflict stretched away from Australia not towards it.
On July 14th 2007, the 3rd Annual Kokoda Challenge will be held in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. This is a team event. 4 people walk/run 96 kms through very rugged and hilly terrain to replicate the Kokoda track.The event raises funds for at risk youth. This year, over 130 teams have entered.
My team, "Byrons Angels", have been training since November. We are planning to complete the course in under18 hours (that would make it a top 5 finish on last year's event. Most teams walk it.) For the last few weeks we have been out there training segments of the course. It is tough. The hills are extreme, raising to between 300 and 600 metres, and there are seven of these. The track is very rough, so concentration is tantamount.
Today we were out there for 4 hours, a beautiful day, amazing country, and some views that really did require a pause.
The longest I have run is 69 kms, and the run was not nearly as challenging as this one. I know I can go the distance. I have no doubt.
It may sound incomprehensible as to why we would choose to do this. And there are many reasons. I like to test out my spirit through physical challenge. When the world narrows down to just the moment and the effort of the moment, which is to keep going when your body is screaming to stop, you get to meet your soul. Everything else becomes very quiet. I used to think that people who gave up the fight were weak. However, I have learned that the world needs both fighters and people who surrender, and that both are good, and both can be bad. At times even in the fight, surrender is required. Surrender the struggle and still keep moving. Often I will have a mantra going in my head: "Let go and let God".
Other times, I need to call on the warrior to dig deeper. Always I have to keep my mind on the overall goal of finishing, which requires temperance. Slow and steady wins the race. Consistency, tenacity! I learn so much about me while I am out there running. I know I can rely on me to keep going. I know I am a fighter to the last drop. This reliability is vital when you are working with a team. Can I rely on my fellow team member as much as I can rely on me? (Not being able to is a sure recipe for a dysfunctional team).
The self management required is also crucial. Paying exquisite attention to the bodys every nuance. [Do I need more fuel, solid, liquid? How is my pace? Can I go harder, or do I need to ease up and go the distance? If I miss a beat on this, I will falter. If my sugar levels drop, by concentration drops and I will fall. If my sugar levels drop for very long, it takes a lot of time to get them back. Stay fueled, always.] There needs to be a complete ego extraction for success, and a willingness to go internal and pay attention to the immediate feedback. Ego only gets you to breakdown point sooner.
At some point you reach the point of absolute humility. This is where care for most things we worry about slip into some distant past.
[Do I look good
couldnt care what I look like!
Do I smell good
hah! Who cares!
Do I care if we win
just keep going, steady and consistent wins the race. Dont think about anyone else. Make it to the finish line.
Do I care what I eat? Eat what you can. At some point all food will become difficult to stomach.
Do I care what you think of me? Sorry buddy, I am too tired just staying upright and mobile to worry what you think of me.]
There is great liberation in letting go of all of these cares and only caring about one thing. Surviving the next step.
On the other side of the test of physical and spiritual endurance, there is nothing like the sleep of a person who has done extreme physical activity. The sleep of the dead.
[Anyone who suffers insomnia may not be doing enough exercise!)
And the taste of the food when you are done and your hunger is like a ravenous fire. Eating because you need food for survival.
No food ever tastes this good.
Many times in my life I have struggled with a regular meditative practice. Finally, I have surrendered to my mediation being a moving one. To the quiet of the moment when you are pushing the red line just a little bit, for a long time. This is my spiritual practice. This is where I descend into my soul. This is also where I transcend into my spirit.
I would recommend it.
PS. If you would like to check out this event, see www.kokodachallenge.com
Also, if you would like to make a donation to the Kokoda Kids, please visit the same site, and make the donation under the name of "Byrons Angels".
PPS. Next month I will let you know how we went. Our team, Donna, Alicia, Christine, and of course, Byron.