Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On buffs...

Do you wear at buff at every race? When I first wore one, in the desert in Jordan (I still have it, I've worn it at every ultra, and only during ultras - until my DNF at the UT4M last summer, it was my "lucky buff"), it was really handy, even though I didn't really know the name for it. This was also quite a few years before an international body was created to give out points and establish some form of world rankings in what is now universally known as "trail running" (i.e. running anywhere but on concrete), basically attempting to regulate an activity that has existed since before humans discovered agriculture, and which people have been doing in its modern, recreational form for decades... Before ITRA starts regulating runners, it should require that every race director have run his own course at least once (how about even just one ultra?). That would at least mean that the UTMB would change hands... What next? An Olympic sport?

Different rant... I have nothing against race directors, on the contrary - only the utmost admiration and gratitude. And almost all, certainly the few I know, are passionate about long-distance running. I've often considered - and on one occasion explored the possibility of - organising a race. It's a daunting task and a labour of love... It's just that there are some races now cropping up where the desire to benefit commercially from the explosion in popularity in trail running...

Anyway, back to the buff: I didn't actually use that first buff much to keep the sand out of my eyes and mouth, but I found it somehow very comforting to have around my neck. Thing is, during all those years of alcohol and drugs, it made me feel like part of this nebulous ultra running community when I put it on. Otherwise, for the most part, I felt like a fraud. I kept to myself, particularly at the beginning of races, for that reason, a bit like at parties when I was a teenager around girls, afraid that others would see right through me. I still do for the most part (keep to myself, I mean; I don't go to many teenage parties any more). I enjoy the atmosphere (well, at least at lower-key races), but not the banter so much. What am I really going to banter about? When I tried that at the UT4M during the race, I ended up mainly asking the other person whether they had "done anything like this before", really just so that I could answer "I have, but that was 15 years ago" not so much to brag about how long I've been running - there's probably some of that, I just hate to admit it - but really to reassure myself that I could get to the end of the race (that obviously didn't work - in fact I'm quite sure it had the opposite effect). Then again, since 2006, I haven't done many races without my friend Cyril - so no real compelling urge to "make new friends". Only once, at the Défi des Jubilés: I started chatting to a guy just after the start, and we ended up running for 9 hours together. Probably my best race every in terms of time and how I felt thoughout. I didn't know him well enough to whine and complain like I've done at most races with Cyril.

Oops, off track again (bad pun intended). Now buffs have become such popular race gifts that I have almost as many as race shirts. Not sure what to do with them all, so I've started wearing them on my wrists like a tennis player. I might start using them as leg warmers, with a few spare in my backpack to use as a tourniquet in case I or someone I run across ruptures an artery.

So now we have hydration packs, shoes (for some) and other amenities, minus the spear since we're not hunting anything anymore... And I'm such a sucker. I'm not a fan of barefoot running, wearing a pack makes me feel like I have batteries strapped to my back like the energizer bunny. And I do love my buffs. I feel naked without at least one somewhere on my body.

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