Monday, December 30, 2013

The Runner's Raw Shark Test

Sometimes it’s too easy to use running as a big flashing metaphor. Take the 10-mile run I did on the morning of Christmas Eve. I started slow, much slower than almost everyone else, and for a good half of the run I was alone. That was OK, though; I knew I had to run at my own pace, do my own thing. I also knew eventually I’d meet up with my friends, and sure enough, I did: halfway through I caught up with a few running buddies and ran the rest of the way with them. Story of my life, right there: the slow start, the lagging behind, the aloneness, and yet the drive onward with hope that it would work out, that people who care about me will be there for me in the end.

Or compare that to the 15-mile run I did yesterday. The trail was a much easier one than the one I ran Christmas Eve in terms of hilliness, and the temperature was a good 20-plus degrees warmer, but the 15-miler ended up being a brutal battle against ground that alternated between mud-mucked and ice-slicked, as well as winds that ripped any trace of heat right out of your body and carried it off to the next county. One day the trail will delight and surprise you, the next day it will suck like nobody’s business. Ooh! Ooh! Kind of like life! And you know what? Even that sucky 15-miler had its moments of delight and surprise, mainly in the form of my many crazy-ass running buddies who showed up to run with me, in celebration of my birthday, because that’s the kind of people I know. Anyone can be there for you on a gloriously beautiful day; on a day that promises to be hell on Yak-Tracks, look around you and you’ll see the people who really matter.
Do I really believe all that? Does it really matter? That whole perspiration/inspiration ratio credited to Thomas Edison is still pretty spot-on. Dream a little, do a lot. Ultra runners will tell you that running ridiculous miles becomes far more about mental endurance than physical endurance, and while there’s a lot of truth to this, obviously running is still a physical, bodily endeavor. There’s perspiration a-plenty, in other words, yet there’s also inspiration, and—what I think is far more valuable—imagination. The infamous inkblots of Rorschach do not, by themselves, have meaning but can, when perceived and described, mean anything. When I write something, whether it’s about running or anything else, I know I’m making it up; my powers of imagination aren’t necessarily pushing their way into delusion and denial. But the thing is, I usually like what I make up. It often tells me something about myself or my life. It does not always tell me what I want to hear, but that’s good and necessary as well; after all, if we only imagine good things, we aren’t really being all that imaginative. Of course, if we only imagine bad things, as I have learned, we feel pretty shitty a lot of the time. Balance. It’s not just for circus tight-rope walkers.

This is the point in a blog post where I usually try to wrap things up with an attempt at profundity. It also happens to be the time of the year that is particularly conducive to wrap-up profundities. Well, I got nothing at the moment, but don’t you worry. A new year will come, and with it, a little more to dream and a lot more to do.


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