Hell and hill are remarkably similar words, or at least that is my recurring thought as I run what I call “the hill” two mornings a week. To call it a hill is an insult to Drescher Mountain. It is a monster.
From my house, the run begins with a 350’ drop in elevation over a winding two-thirds of a mile, which is a perfectly fine way to begin a 5k run. The kicker, of course, is that it ends with a grueling two-thirds of a mile climb up same mountain.
It was three summers ago when I decided that this hill/mountain/monster must be conquered. I’m not sure why. Temporary insanity leads the polls. But decide I did, and after it I went—slowly. I counted nine fire hydrants along the path, so the strategic plan was to conquer the mountain one fire hydrant at a time.
The first fire hydrant was okay because a person could reach it with a good spit from somewhat level ground. The second wasn’t too bad, but the third made me cry. Four, five, and six required therapy, and I cannot even begin to describe seven and eight—those fire hydrants worship Satan. Fire hydrant number nine and the final stretch run to my house were bad only in the sense that after fire hydrant eight I displayed a remarkable resemblance to a Will Ferrell crying scene.
But I did it. Conquered the mountain.
I’m leaving out an important part of the story. All along, my plan was to do more than conquer the mountain, presuming that continuing to conquer the mountain would lead to some beautiful day when running up that blasted hill would be easy. I thought that was rational.
Rational or not, it was wrong. It has been years since that first glorious victory and it is not even close to easy. It is hard, every single time.
After reflecting on this somewhat depressing reality on yet another morning run, a new thought arrived: Maybe some things aren’t meant to be easy. And maybe that’s okay.
Getting up early for a difficult job, battling a chronic illness, losing loved ones, or even running up a mountain—maybe it would be an insult to the thing itself if it ever became easy.
I’m going to mention my friend, Stephanie, again because she told me about a line in the play Rabbit Hole that compared grief to a brick that you carry around in your pocket: The brick never leaves, but you get to where you don’t notice it so much and, in fact, when you do notice you realize that you don’t want it to go away.
Maybe that is what I am learning today. Some things aren’t meant to be easy, but that’s okay. If they were easy, you might forget to appreciate something worthwhile.
The thought arrived somewhere around infernal fire hydrant eight this week that maybe perseverance is not sticking with something until you conquer it. Maybe perseverance is better understood as sticking with something even when you never conquer it.
There is a famous chapter in the Christian Bible all about people who did that very thing, and they called it “faith.”
Maybe I could rename my morning nemesis Faith Hill, but that would just sound silly.