This is a true story for the 2009 Portland to Coast Relay Race that covers 127 miles.
Linda’s finish line was nowhere in sight. She had already pushed her body past empty and was still moving forward. Hope of reaching her finish line was dwindling as she weighed the distance she still had to go against the energy reserves left in her body. She was hurt, fearful and discouraged. Yet, she was part of a team and she couldn’t let them down. They depended on her.
It was 1 a.m. on a cold, rainy, dark and dismal morning as Linda forced one foot out in front of the other. Her team cheered her on from the sidelines. Her heart wanted to move forward. Her body wanted to collapse. Fear was strangling her emotions. A fear like none other she had ever experienced was weakening her.
As she continued to race her heart willed her on. Her body was in the midst of breaking off all communication with her heart when out of nowhere a woman came up beside her. Honestly, Linda had to admit, that she had already given up before she began. As the stranger came along beside her she was fighting an emotional war inside her mind. She didn’t want to let down her team, but she kept thinking, “what if” she really got hurt and couldn’t work after the race. That fear was enough to set her mind off on the racetrack of doubt.
The stranger had seen from behind that Linda was in need. She distracted Linda by talking to her, encouraging her and slowing her own pace step by step to stay constantly beside her. The stranger promised her, “I am not going to leave you and you are not going to leave me,“ she continued, “together we are going to walk up the hill ahead of us and finish.” Linda felt as though an angel had come out of nowhere but still it wasn’t enough, her strength was waning. She feared disappointing her team, she feared the pain shooting from her hips, and she feared the unfamiliar and uncharacteristic trepidation that was controlling her.
Just then, in the midst of her inner war, her teammate Robert came up beside her. She hadn’t asked for help, she was trying to be strong, but he sensed her need and came to fill in the gap. She tried to tell the stranger to go on ahead of her just as she tried to encourage Robert to go back to the sidelines. Linda’s pride wanted her to be strong because she had never needed help before. She didn’t know quite how to accept help. Both the stranger and Robert refused to leave her, so she leaned into Robert and absorbed his strength. His words, his very presence, emotionally carried her as he physically supported her arm in arm, step by step.
Still with all that help she was struggling. At her deepest darkest lowest moment Robert told her about a time when he was serving in Iraq and his team’s vehicle broke down. They had done the impossible; in the grueling heat they physically carried the vehicle as a team. He promised her that as a team he would carry her if she needed him to. It was just then that another teammate, John, came around the other side of her and lifted up the last of her doubts. Robert, John and the stranger conquered doubt for Linda. She walked on in their strength. They gave her every ounce of support they could give while still allowing this to be her race, her victory.
The miles passed under her feet with renewed strength. Her team was counting on her and she was counting on them; they were a team after all. Their dependence was interwoven as was their strength. In the dark morning hours two men, a stranger and one woman walked the race leg meant for one as a team. Their pace was slow but it no longer mattered. What was important was that she reached her exchange point to hand-off to another teammate for the next leg of the race.
Linda’s story just goes to show that you are only as strong as the team that supports you. Her mighty team gave her just what she needed to succeed. As a team she succeeded in finishing her leg of the race despite everything.
Even if you are a team of one in your business it is critical that you find a support system of other businesses, mentors and family that will walk along beside when you have run out of steam. I have watched those relationships happened countless times on Facebook when a fellow business stumbles their virtual friends rush in to support them. If it is dark and you are weary know that you are not alone.
Linda said to me, “It was a humbling experience realized that there are times in my life when I need to accept support. That one walk dramatically changed my life and how I look at things. The stranger made my success more important than her own race time – that meant so much. We need to be there for each other, even if they don’t ask, even if it is just an arm around another – sometimes that is all we need.”