by Luke Thomas.
Growing up in Washington, Evan Peterson marveled at the soaring, snowy caps of Mount Rainier. To him, it represented both a landmark and a challenge. But it wasn’t until moving to Birmingham that he found his thoughts returning to the West Coast, and ultimately to the mountain.
Years after it disappeared from his everyday sight, Peterson made the decision to climb Mt. Rainier. In preparing for the climb, he’s accomplished feats and grown in ways that he never would have imagined. Peterson’s story is an inspiring tale of setting a goal and seeing where it leads. And it’s only just begun.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
After making the decision to climb one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, Peterson knew the first step was to start training. This was no stroll in the park, after all.
While Alabama’s mountains provide splendid views of the city and are home to expansive state parks, they’re no match for Mt. Rainier. Reaching the summit requires incredible amounts of strength, stamina, and endurance. So to train, Peterson started running.
“After a while, I was doing 7-mile runs 3 or 4 days a week,” Peterson said. “I realized I was already halfway through marathon training.”
As a step toward his mountainous goal, Peterson registered for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in Savannah, Georgia. On Saturday, Nov. 4, he covered 26.22 miles during his first ever marathon.
“I never thought I’d like running,” Peterson said. “When I played baseball for UAB, running was always a punishment. Now, it’s something I look forward to, and I’ve gotten lots of benefits from it.”
Running for three hours at a time is a huge commitment. It helps that one of Peterson’s former teammates signed up for the marathon with him. The two realized that running doesn’t have to be painful; instead, it’s a way to hang out.
“We were surprised when we realized that, after the first couple of miles, our breathing and heart rates evened out, and we could hold normal conversation,” Peterson said. “Being there to encourage each other is really important on long runs when the joint pain borders on unbearable. Knowing we’re going through the same things helps me push through. They say shared pain is half the pain, after all.”
It Takes an Iron Will
Training for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon has opened another door along the way.
While training, Peterson began talking to several friends who had completed the Ironman Triathalon, one of the world’s longest endurance races.
“Running a full marathon is one-third of the Ironman, so I figured why not sign up for the full thing?” Peterson said.
And so began the next phase of his journey. Peterson will compete in the Ironman Canada on July 29, 2018.
Having an extensive athletic background, Peterson has always enjoyed a physical pursuit. But he hopes to gain more than just material benefits from completing the Ironman.
“I expect this triathlon to be a spiritual experience in a way,” Peterson said. “It’s not like other races or competitions. It’s just you out there. There’s nothing to keep you going but your own heartbeat and pure willpower. Once I complete this, other challenges in life won’t seem so big.”
In fact, one of Peterson’s most compelling reasons for committing to a marathon, triathlon, and volcano climb stems from the desire for adventure.
“Adventure is a funny concept,” Peterson said. “Many people have this romantic view of what it means to be ‘adventurous.’ They create Pinterest boards and dream about living in Italy, but never actually go through with it. That’s why I’m doing this. To see what adventure is out there. Just to live.”
A Start is a Start
For someone wanting to start running, biking, or working toward any new goal, Peterson’s number one piece of advice is to simply start.
“It’s so easy to make excuses,” Peterson said. “You can wait till you’ve got the perfect pair of shoes, a new bike, or hours of free time. But the excuses will always be there. If you want to start running, go outside and run. It’s as simple as that.”
Another important piece of advice Peterson gives is to look at a goal like this as a lifestyle change.
“You can’t do just one piece of the puzzle and expect it all to work,” Peterson said. “When I first started training, I was still going out several nights a week and eating however I wanted. I quickly realized that something had to give. Getting healthy, or working toward any major goal, requires you to change your lifestyle, not just one behavior.”
The Goal is Just the Beginning
Peterson’s story illustrates a valuable lesson in the power of goal-setting. While the goal itself is the first step, it’s often simply the catalyst for much greater growth and change. The skills, self-confidence, and wisdom you gain while working toward a goal are benefits that last much longer than the day you cross the finish line. In fact, achieving your goal would feel pretty empty without all of the hard work and grit that built up to it.
So focus on the goal, but know that the true reward is in the journey.