One of the cherished memories I have of my boyhood days back in Indiana was listening intently to the transistor radio as the annual Indianapolis 500 took place each Memorial Day weekend. In those days, it was never aired locally on television. Nevertheless, it was The Greatest Spectacle in Racing and captured the hearts and minds of all ages.
The Indy 500 is an event with a pre-determined ending point. It ends at 500 miles. Whichever car completes that last lap (200 laps) and finishes 500 miles is the winner. The race ends as soon as that lead car gets to the finish line. The other cars finish their last lap for their finishing positions. A winner has been determined and the event is over.
The Colorado Trail, which coincidentally is also about 500 miles, has a definite beginning and end—the Northern Terminus at Waterton Canyon Trailhead in Denver and the Southern Terminus at Junction Creek in Durango.
I finished the race.
With some sweat and tears (no blood), I made the 485-mile terminus-to-terminus journey from Durango to Denver and finished strong. Of course I did have a few mechanical issues and a couple pit stops along the way but that is all a part of the event!
I hiked 485 miles, passed through six National Forests, six Wilderness areas, five major river systems and eight of the Colorado‘s mountain ranges. I made it through 75,000 feet of elevation change and reached the highest point of the Colorado Trail which is 13,334 ft. above sea level.
I crossed the finish line.
When I finally arrived at the Northern Terminus in Waterton Canyon there was no checkered flag. There was no ribbon or Borg-Warner Trophy. Not even a bottle of milk to gulp in Victory Lane.
So why did I put myself through it?
Because it’s not about the finish line.
What I learned out there when I was alone in the wilderness cannot be taught in a classroom on a chalkboard or from Googling.
On this race I learned something about long-suffering and the ability to endure with great patience and joy. Joy is a choice you make each day. On the trail I learned how to get back up when you fall down and come back with blazing hope.
I learned that the real triumph was not the distance for there are much longer trails.
The real victory was the triumph of the heart.