By Matthew Giron
Earlier this year Judge Mitchell led the Skid Row Running Club on long runs (15-20 milers) through the hills of Pasadena in preparation for the Los Angeles Marathon. On one of these runs I arrived at Descanso Gardens, our 15 mile checkpoint, to meet the other runners for a quick water break. While taking a sip of water another runner said to me "Hey you're bleeding", pointing to my chest. I looked down and was surprised to see blood all over my shirt. I was puzzled since I had not felt any discomfort from my chest area up to that point. Nor had I remembered wrestling any bears along the way. I was experiencing a common phenomenon that affects long distance runners for the first time - bloody nipples.
While nursing my nipples (sorry, had to do it!) back to health I couldn't figure out how I couldn't have noticed the crime scene on my shirt. I realized that I had been so focused on making it to that checkpoint that I probably wouldn't have been distracted by much of anything, even if dancing hippos in pink tutus crossed my path.
My bloody nipples taught me quite a bit that day. I realized that discomforts and obstacles ("bloody nipples") will present themselves, even unexpectedly, whenever a worthwhile goal is pursued. I think back to when I was pursuing my college degree. I endured many sleepless nights studying for exams, late buses, professors whose passion was watching students fail...on and on. When the goal of graduating was real it seemed as if I never really noticed the obstacles/discomforts. When those obstacles seemed to feel too overwhelming, I knew that my goal wasn't real enough. It was time to refocus and make that goal real again.
Presently, in early recovery from addiction, I've set goals for myself - primarily to remain clean and sober. My "nipples bleed" these days in the form of discouragement, loneliness, and guilt. I'm reminded though, that when these discomforts get to be too noticeable it's time to refocus and make my goal of remaining clean and sober real again.
You can learn a lot from a bloody nipple.