Conversations about the run

Many people have asked me about my race, and of course this is flattering.

But I find I don’t really know what to tell them.

Some have read my blog article about it, others have not. I can’t repeat the article in a conversation, it’s the wrong format. (It’s so much easier for me to lecture than to talk…)

What is there to say? Well, the two highlights that stick in my mind were the sunrise and the encounter with the buffalo. Oh, and a few people might be interested in how barren I found the landscape, how much drier it was than SB, how few wildflowers, and how there was a strange plum (or some member of the rose family) in bloom which doesn’t bloom here.

But somehow this all seems to miss the point. I’m not sure what I should say.

Why do I run? Perhaps that’s what I need to say. Or why do I race?

Why is it important to me?

Partly because I enjoy running, enjoy the scenery. But that’s not all of it. True enough for the first six hours or so, but after six and a half hours I wasn’t enjoying running, I wasn’t looking at the scenery, I stopped taking pictures. I was just trudging onwards. My legs hurt.

And yet, I realized just now, it never once occurred to me that I could just stop. I could have gone to the next (or back to the last) aid station and given up. I did stop running, but I kept walking. I never stopped moving.

Was I being competitive? Not in the conventional sense. When I got passed (it only happened twice) I was not moved to try harder. Nor was I competing against the clock, I’d given up on my hope of breaking 8 hours.

After listening to the other people at my table in the after race dinner I was struck that they did not seem to be pushing themselves. The woman next to me said she ran because it was a beautiful course, but she didn’t train for it. They can’t be racing.

I try to do the best I can. After 7 hours, I couldn’t do much, but I did what I could.

And why have I chosen to do “the best I can” at running? Why not swimming? (because my best isn’t very good in the water?) or anything useful?

I guess because running is something I do fairly well (even at 50), so my best is somewhat meaningful, whereas in so many other areas I don’t do very well…

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4 Responses to “Conversations about the run”

  1. Dan Arias Says:

    Well speaking for myself I would have to say I have a lot of personal pride and vanity invested in the process.

    I’ve gotten into the habit of doing the local Olympic-length triathlon every year as a goal and to prove to myself that I can. The last one was last September and I made the mistake of thinking that I could go on a camping trip to the Sierras for a week and then do the triathlon the day after I came home.

    I started the swim and almost immediately lost my stroke and couldn’t get my breathing right. I was physically exhausted. I seriously considered quitting, but I couldn’t do it. It would have been easy but it felt like a defeat. So I bargained with myself and started doing an easy breast stroke. Eventually, I got a crawl going and I made it to the end.

    Next came the bike section. That actually went pretty well. I had a new bike and I had been commuting to work on it so I was very comfortable. Lastly came the run (a 10K) and a mile out I got a cramp in my left hamstring. It was painful and I could barely straighten my leg. I was again sorely tempted to quit but again it felt like a self-betrayal. Once again I bargained with myself. I limped, stopped, stretched, limped. Eventually the cramp went away and I got a slow pace I could sustain. A race-walker passed me. I finished the race, but now I was more elated at overcoming the desire to quit, than I was for finishing the race. I felt spiritually purified, if physically banged-up. It was a transcendent experience.

    I passed the test.

    Congratulations on your race!

  2. Adger Says:

    Inner demons (daemons, daimons, whatever) compelling you onward? I have to confess that it is very difficult to abandon a goal I have set while skiing, no matter how cold and miserable or hot and miserable or wet and miserable I have become. Wonder what that drive is, and what on earth is it exapted from?

  3. drea Says:

    Fairly well? George- you are awesome! Please give yourself some credit!!!!!

  4. Dan Arias Says:

    I suppose it depends on how one colors one’s demons. I think of a demon as something dark and pathological, like guilt and envy. The force that drove me on was more akin to a rebellion against demons like sloth, or the I-can’t-do-it demon. Mine was a struggle to overcome the bad demons. Is the agency that drives this tendency demonic? Are there good demons to counter the bad? I suppose it is possible to do constructive things for destructive reasons, e.g., “Return with this shield or upon it.” There were also more objective agents who weighed the safety of my situation, and the possibility of real injury.

    Perhaps are these the angels or our better nature, or the force that through the green fuse drives the flower? Sorting it all out is non-trivial, but it is good to periodically check-in with this inner legislature.

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