Several years ago a nearby city hosted it’s 1st Annual Paddlefest which included a 16 mile canoe marathon and a significantly shorter fun race. My adventurous husband decided he wanted to participate. Not in the fun race – in the marathon. Never having done a canoe marathon, he knew that 16 miles would be a bit much for him to paddle alone so he enlisted his best friend to join him (you could either race single or double). The flyer which had information on both the marathon and the fun race said that aluminum canoe rentals were available and that’s what they planned to do. Their team name was Wejusthopetofinish (I’ll just call them Team W).
So the day of the race came and I went along to take pictures and cheer them on. DH had packed two coolers for them to take on the canoe filled with waters and snacks. We get to the starting point and they go to rent their canoe and it isn’t open yet. They find a person in charge and let him know they need a canoe and the guy is certain that they mean for the fun race. “Nope, we are doing the marathon,” they assure him. They were the only ones actually renting a boat to do the marathon. The rest of the racers had these thin sleek canoes and water vests. No one else had a cooler either, for that matter.
Here's a picture of them before the race (notice the coolers in the middle of the canoe). DH is on the left:
Before the race started, my husband and his friend were getting a lot of dirty looks from the other racers. My husband thinks that the other racers may have thought that he and his friend were mocking the marathon. But that changed once the race actually started. As soon as the race begain, the rest of the racers swooshed by Team W.
But when the racers came across Team W for the second time a bit into the race (it was a loop) and realized that Team W was still going, a lot of the racers threw out words of encouragement to the team.
After all the racing canoes came in, the awards and lunch started…still no Team Wejusthopetofinish. Then everyone started packing up to leave….still no Team W. Finally it was just me outside waiting for them to appear.
The race coordinator was still inside the signup area, but only because he was still packing up everything from the event.
Eventually I heard the voices of Team W up the river and then I saw them paddling towards me in that big aluminum canoe. They had made it! And there to greet them was a cheering crowd of one – me.
When the event coordinator saw them dock the boat, he looked shocked to see them. He had kind of forgotten about them. He was so impressed that they completed the full 16 miles that he gave them a pretty cool wooden racing oar. He told them that if you would have told the other canoe racers that they had to race in an aluminum canoe instead of the racing canoes, most, if not all of them, would have said, “No way.”
So here are some of the lessons I took from that day:
1. The journey is always better with friends along.
2. Sometimes you are better off not knowing what's in store. Just enjoy the moment.
2. Don’t worry about what other’s think, do it anyway.
3. Don’t let other’s tell you that you can't do it.
4. Don’t limit yourself. Even if you’ve only got a big aluminum canoe, you can still paddle.
5. No matter how hard it gets and even if you are paddling against the current, don’t quit.
6. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, it only matters that you finish the race. (There were three people with the racing canoes that didn’t finish and two racers that didn’t even start.)
It would have been so easy for my husband and his friend to back out once they saw the racing canoes and realized what they were up against. And no one would have blamed them if they had stopped short of the 16 miles. But they didn’t. And not only do they have the sense of accomplishment for actually completing it, but also a great story to tell. I don’t think it’s something either of them will forget, nor will I. I am so proud of my husband for seeing it through to the end!
The biggest lesson I hope you take from this is to keep paddling on, my SparkFriends! You and I may not be in a canoe marathon (at least not right now), but we are still in a marathon on our journey to getting fit and healthy. We may be at different points in the marathon, but no matter what, we need to keep pressing on, taking it one step at a time and not worrying about all the steps ahead. If we do that, we will make it to the finish line. And it will be so worth it in the end!