“This has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever done, once this is over I am done with running.”
Among many other expletives that peppered my thoughts that day, that particular thought was the one that pulsed through me during the later miles of my first ultra in fall of 2012. I felt physically and emotionally defeated, and even began rehearsing in my head what I had planned to say to do damage control on what my friends and family who were waiting on me to finish may think if I quit. After a mental high rope balancing act, teetering between decisions, I decided to continue and eventually did finish, purple toenails and all. It was only at this point that I knew the power of the human spirit, and that a person’s will, determination, and heart can drive them to do amazing things.
More than a year has passed since I fell in love with running, yet it still manages to teach me something new every time I do it, like some sort of eternal spiritual guru or guide. It remains my instructor and I its student whose bond is always evolving and changing, yet at the core is strong and pure.
In retrospect, I didn’t gravitate towards running the way I had previously with other sports. There was no grand spectacle or production to be seen, no arena filled with fancy strobe lights, loud sounds, and screaming fans. I had been an athlete all my life, but suddenly sports I had participated in no longer held interest for me. I didn’t want the crowds, nor the spectacle. I didn’t want trendy or watered down. Many of the same issues were also present in my every day and personal life. I, like so many other people, had gotten sucked into the frenzy of social media, news-feeds, and the seemingly endless void of mindless consumer culture. All this hip, snobby superficiality coming at me from every direction telling me I wasn’t cool if I didn’t buy the latest I pod, update my status every 5 minutes, or didn’t know who each celebrity was having relations with. I didn’t buy into it anymore. I needed something different. I needed simple. In fact, it was everything that running WASN’T that made me love it. There was no gimmick; just put one foot in front of the other. Just move. It was that simple. You could go as long or as fast as you wanted, it didn’t matter. It was amazing, and I think it’s the very fact that running is so simple and back-to-the-basics that makes my connection with it so special. I now believe with all my heart that this notion that humans need to be “connected” and “plugged-in” to each other’s lives through endless avenues of communication is nonsense. In fact, I think it’s the very things that promise to make us closer that are actually driving us farther apart. I promise you, the freedom of thought and internal dialogue you’ll have with yourself while running is so much more valuable than frantically refreshing the page on a computer or smartphone to see what “the latest” is.
Personally, this journey with running has been one of the most significant ones of my life, and better late than never to have discovered something that was in front of me the whole time.
Remember, it’s simple: one foot in front of the other. (Even I can’t screw that up)