Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Why do we do it...

Taking a break from the debates (yes, more later, but not now), I’ve been pondering something lately.


Some people run because they love it.  They just flat out want to go out and run and get itchy feet if they don’t.


Some people seek out challenges because they must.  They don’t just climb mountains because they’re there, they climb mountains because they ABSOLUTELY MUST climb that mountain—whatever the mountain is.  The strain and punishment of accomplishment diverts their attention from the emptiness that they otherwise would have to confront.  It consumes their life, lest their life consume them.


Some people do these things for fun.  They get great joy and/or peace from hang gliding or survivalist-type camping or whatever their particular drug of choice is.  It’s integrated with their life and their life has consumed and metabolized their peace and past time and that peace has become a part of their life.  It’s not so much an activity as it is an act of meditation.


And then there’s me.  I don’t use my various challenges as a drug.  I’ve picked up and put down challenges as easy as I would pick up and put down anything else.  I don’t need to run or swim or cycle or hike or camp as an act of meditation any more…  there was a time, once, when that might have been true, but that time is long past.  Maybe that’s why I don’t ride as often (or at all) as I used to.  I certainly don’t love running.  There are very few things I want to do less than run.


Yet, the marathon was one challenge that I picked up and couldn’t put down.  I picked it up.  I failed.  I could have simply walked away and washed my hands of the whole, sordid affair.  Yet I did not.  I picked it up again and completed my marathon.  I’ve considered running another one, but have yet to feel the absolute need to scale that mountain again.  The triathlon is still to come, but thanks to the hurricane the timing just hasn’t been right.


So why did I even bother?  Months of work, capped off my failure, followed by more months of work, capped by the one fleeting moment.  Cross the line.  Release the primal cheer of victory.  Receive the medallion.  Take a drink.  Eat breakfast.  Sleep.  Wake.  Back to work, life goes on.  A few months go by and the fellow in the mirror barely resembles the fellow at the finish line.

So, why bother?


I think the answer to that is because there is another reason to seek out mountains to conquer.  For some it’s the love of the thing and they must do that thing.  For others it’s the fear of reality.  For still others the thing is a gateway to their own center.  And then there’s the other reason…  the quest for an anchor.

An anchor is that thing you can look back to, your own personal crucible, your own universal analogy.  It’s the quest to finish the sentence that starts with “Life is a…”


For me, life is, and forever will be, a marathon.  That marathon is my anchor.  The 42 miles worth of marathon that I ran, and all the intervening training miles that I (grudgingly) put under my belt is my universal analogy.


Work sucks?  Remember, life is a marathon and you have to put in the training miles to appreciate that moment at the finish line.

School is tough?  Remember, life is a marathon and you have to put in the training miles to appreciate that moment at the finish line.  Nothing is as sweet as that moment.  That moment, forever fleeting, forever there, can run on a permanent loop.  The anticipation, the cheers of the thinning crowd…  finishing is what it’s all about.  And finishing strong.  Crawl, roll, lurch, limp, walk, or run…  it’s all about the finish.  You can stumble.  You can fail.  You can start over.  Just remember…  finish.


In “City Slickers” they say there’s nothing like bringing in the herd.  Sure.  You can use that as your universal analogy…  but I prefer finishing.  Nothing beats going past that finish line.  Nothing beats the marathon pancakes.  Nothing beats the trip through the Valley of Legends.  Nothing beats entering through the Hero’s Gates.  Nothing beats running over the bumpy stretch of Allen Parkway that I will only ever remember as the gut ripping Giant Washboard.  Nothing beats cresting the railroad overpass on Westpark that I will forever remember as Victory Hill…  renamed from Heartbreak Hill the year of my most humbling and humiliating failure.  And then there’s The Spot.  Right there, past the Newcastle Curve at Richmond and 610.  The Spot of surrender in 2005 where I simply couldn’t go another step.  The Spot that can never be erased and will never be forgotten.  The spot where I had to call my lovely wife (and crew chief) and tell her I was done.  The Spot that I spit on as I trotted by one year later en route to the ultimate goal, the ultimate Universal Analogy…  finishing.  They can bring in the herd…  and I may even steal that line on occasion.


But nothing beats finishing. 






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