I used to ski quite a bit and would ski for a couple of hours at a time. One year though I signed up to ski in the Tug Hill Marathon, a 50K event that used to be held each year. A parishioner in Newark Valley had talked me into it. That winter we had very little snow in Newark Valley so it was very hard for me to train for this endurance event. I ended up buying an exercise machine to help me get in shape. I realized that to ski 50 kilometers (31 miles) it would take me a long time. When I skied for a couple of hours at a time at most I covered 5 miles in an hour so I figured the Tug Hill event would take me at least six hours to finish! I began thinking what have I got myself into!
Well the weekend arrived for the event and I journeyed up north the night before with two others. Jim who had talked me into participating had to work a night shift so he joined us petty late. When he arrived at the cabin we were staying in he smelled of garlic! He said he had been eating it on the way up to stay awake. The Marathon began early the next morning, it was a beautiful sunny day with little wind but it was about 10 below zero when we started! A good motivation to keep moving. That year there was less snow than normal on the marked course that was used for the race, so they had to make changes to the course. Instead of going on one continuous trail we had to cover the same trail twice. There were hundreds of skiers of varying skill levels. The friend who came with us was a much faster skier that Jim and I and he quickly went ahead of us on the trail. Some skiers were so fast that within an hour or so they were lapping us! Jim and plowed on but after a couple of hours I had trouble keeping up with Jim he went on ahead of me. (He was easy to follow the trail was marked with the smell of garlic)
Finally I reached the end of the first leg but then it dawned on me that I had to do it all over again to finish! I thought should I start out again!
When I got to the turn-around point there was Jim waiting for me. We decided together to keep on going. Jim though had been waiting too long and when we started out again for the second run of the course; he soon began to lag behind. He told me to go on ahead. As I journeyed on I just kept thinking put one foot in front of the other. I began thinking about a parishioner from Weedsport, Mike Donovan, who had helped me get started in cross-country skiing. Mike had told me he use to do 100K and 150k ski races in Canada. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to ski such distances. Mike had died of cancer a few years before after battling the disease so courageously. I remember asking Mike to pray for me as I was skiing. I remember saying,” You are the one who got me hooked on skiing, pray for me that I have the endurance to persevere and finish the course.” After that I felt a new hope that I could finish. As I reached the 26 mile point I realized that I had gone a marathon distance on skis. The farthest I had ever run on foot was 8 miles, to have gone 26 miles on skis made me believe I can do this. I began to realize only 5 miles to go!
As I continued on the trail other skiers took time to talk to me and to encourage me. I was amazed at how many people of all ages took part in this race and many of them had participated every year. I began realizing that the finish line was attainable. At the last rest area I waited for Jim and we went on to the finish. We made it! We had finished hours after the winners but there was still great satisfaction in completing the course. At the halfway point I had doubted greatly that I would make it. But with prayer and support and perseverance I had accomplished it. It made me realize that there are so many things in life that we can accomplish the same way. We can always reach the finish lines in life when we have the support and encouragement of others and are people of prayer who persevere in living our faith.
God’s Blessings and peace, Father Bill