Taking on the GRIT Running Series Challenge

Standing at a wooden podium with the chill of a November wind driving across the fairway of the Hangman Valley golf course near Spokane, I reflected on how the past three years of hard work and sacrifice had just come to an end. The choice to get to bed early instead of hanging out late with high school friends. The drudgery of an early morning alarm clock signaling it was time for another soggy five mile run before class, and a running log book filled with tattered pages of training runs seemed all complete. The goal we had set three years before that day just happened.

That was a moment in 1983 standing with my teammates as we heard our names called out from the announcer stand. We had just won the Washington State Cross Country title, a surreal feeling at that moment which seemed like the end of the trail. As I left the podium, I didn’t realize it wasn’t the end of a trail; it was actually just the beginning.

We all have a trail ahead of us. My own personal trail of participating in endurance sports for the past 40 years was never being the fastest. It took me from running 5ks to marathons, and sprint triathlons to Ironman that had only a handful of age group podiums. But is the podium why we run, bike, or swim? Or is the trail we are on something different, something better?

For all but a few who actually win races, and we all admire you, our trail leads to a different podium. Our trail leads to the same feeling as standing in the number one place. It’s our podium we get when we cross the finish line of a local 5k realizing we made the effort to get there and we wear our race shirt home with pride. It’s the podium of hearing your name called by the announcer as you finish in the middle or back of the pack at a half-marathon or triathlon, and another finisher medal goes home to hang on the wall. 

It’s the podium of walking through the doors at work on Monday morning, each step sending shards of pain through every joint of your body and a co-worker asks if you’re okay. You tell them you just ran a 50k trail race in the mountains. With 6,000 feet of vertical climbing. You turn and the co-worker says you’re crazy, but each step of pain is your podium. A podium built of your strength.

As endurance athletes, our podium isn’t at the end of the trail. Ours is a trail with podiums along the way. A trail we blaze each time we get up early to swim, run or ride. A trail of sacrifice to get the work done and cross the next finish line. A trail that has to be navigated through demands in our careers, commitment to our families, injuries, and the setbacks of life. It’s a trail we make with GRIT.

All finishers of the GRIT running series in North Idaho, which includes the Race the Wolf, Dig Your Grave, Smokechaser, and Priest Lake Marathon races, earn a custom technical finishers’ jacket and all finisher names are posted on a printed podium that runs in the November/December edition of Out There Outdoors. Wherever the trail is leading you, GRIT has a race for you to continue your journey. Find all the info about the GRIT races at Priestlakerace.com. //

Ken Eldore is the Race Director of Priest Lake Multisports and the North Idaho GRIT running series.


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