Inspiration

Having recently come across some inspiring passages in accounts about long-distance running, I thought I would share them here. Something to remind me of how I felt in 2000 at the Jordan Desert Cup and inspire me as I take on new challenges...

I'll start with my father, who as a rather overweight businessman completed over 100 marathons and  a few ultras - and who got me started in this whole stuff -, qualified himself as an "optimistic pessimist". His favorite motto was "One life  - live it!". On his reason for running:

The body suffers, but the mind is free.
- Cedric Grant, dit Toto




It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. (Joseph Campbell)


Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss. (Hal Holbrook)

That’s probably what most non-runners don’t understand. Why do something that will take you so far down into the depths of pain, fear, misery and the dark places of your mind? Well, I think it’s when we fall deep into the abyss that we learn the most, get stronger and come away a better person for it. Plus, if it wasn’t for knowing darkness, would we really be able to fully appreciate the light? Because of all my bad runs, I am overjoyed in the good ones. I have surely crashed hard in some of my 100-mile races, but I truly believe I have become more beautiful for having overcome and survived those scary places.
Rachel Nypaver, "Running: Just another addiction?"


At your darkest moment, you shouldn’t fear the void. See it for what it truly is. An infinite pool of will and courage, as clear as spring water. Stare into it and see the reflection of your soul looking back. For many, this is the face of God. Look into her eyes. It’s full of stars. My God, it’s full of stars.
Scott Dunlap, A trail runner's blog, with a great entry on reasons for running: Wall-Pit-Abyss 



Before my first hundred, I asked a 100-mile veteran how in the world he got through the second half of the race. He looked at me and smiled knowingly, “The second 50? Oh, that’s all zen.” At the time, I couldn’t appreciate what he was saying, but after several hundreds, I’m beginning to understand how the zen concepts of meditation, simplicity, direct experience, and enlightenment apply to those soul-searching miles run during the last half of a hundred. Ironically, I think we sign up for the 100- mile because of the enormity of the challenge and the chance to try something so astonishing, but what we most take away from the experience is something that happens almost imperceptibly along the way: a glimmer of enlightenment.
- Gary Dudney, "Preparing for Your First 100-Mile Race"


In a way, running is like an art. The movement of my body running through the trees, over rocks and splashing through creeks has let me see my own beauty and strength. Before, I had trouble seeing my body this way. It was always being judged, and ultimately found profoundly lacking. Now, as I run through the woods I feel a connectedness to the life around me, to the breeze in my hair, to birds singing in the trees and even to the other sweaty bodies I sometimes run with. I am part of the bigger picture. I am part of the extraordinary, complicated and yet simple work of art the Creator continually strokes with Her light and brilliance.
I may be wrong, but I believe it’s something like that that draws in my former drug, alcohol, sex and food addicted friends. It is not that we have covered up one addiction with another, but that we have gone from something to cover up the misery in our lives to fully loving and experiencing life through our desire to be free in the act of moving our bodies amidst and among mother nature’s wonders. In essence, our addiction is not to running, but to living.
Rachel Nypaver, "Running: Just another addiction?"


Endurance performance isn't primarily physiologically determined, it is determined by the mind, by one's self expectations, one's enjoyment whilst running (...) (What) is the purpose of training? No, not to increase VO2max, or lactate threshold or running economy, but to increase the enjoyment and the positivity in order to prevent race focus fatigue, when your mind and body together as one begin to get tired, resulting in your pace slowing.
- Stuart Mills, "Training for Ultras - What's it all about? What is fatigue?"


The races I've got the most satisfaction from are those where finishing is not a given. (…) I think all people on the starting line of these events have a healthy fear of failure and a realistic expectation that it could happen. (…) The prospect of giving it everything and still failing is what brings people to do these things.
- James Adams, LANY finisher, race review of ONER


Failure (or success) – or at least the prospect of failure (or success) – is what gives the journey proper context, rich consistency, and towering emotional, physical, financial and spiritual stakes that fertilize the soul for quantum growth irrespective of outcome. And growth is everything. But it can only result from earnest investment in experience. So fear and commitment aren’t things to be avoided, but rather embraced with a bear hug of everything. (…) It’s the experience you should be seeking, not the short cut. It’s the voyage you should embrace, not the destination. It’s the path that elevates the soul, not the destination. It’s the process that ennobles, not the result. (…) it’s crucial to emotionally detach from the end result or third-party reception to your efforts. Let it go. It’s none of your business. It’s also irrelevant. But what is relevant is signing up for the journey. What is crucial is showing up at the starting line. (…) Embrace the fear. Let go of perfection. Allow yourself to fail. Welcome the obstacles. Forget the results. Give yourself over to your passion with every fiber of who you are. I can’t promise that you will succeed in the way our culture inappropriately defines the term. But I can absolutely guarantee that you will become deeply acquainted with who you truly are. You will touch and exude passion. And discover what it means to be truly alive.
- Rich Roll, author of "Finding Ultra", Why You Should Stop Lifehacking and Invest in the Journey


One my recent runs while on holiday took me along the beach for over an hour. I thought I might get dulled by the lack of changing scenery—then something happened. For one moment, I knew why I run. Because it makes me feel alive.
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother
your sister
your wife
I run for you and me my friend:
I run for life
- Melissa Etheridge, "Run for life"


Nothing to do specifically with running, but everything to do with competing in ultra trails - and more generally, of course, taking "risks" in life:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt, "Citizenship in a Republic"


And from the mad man of ultra running, the guy who crossed the US on foot, in 52 days, at the age of 57:

A little more than halfway through [Badwater Quad - 584 miles] and after 130 hours, I was feeling completely used up, suffering from severe tendonitis. I can't do it anymore. The pain is too much. I have to stop. [...] On that day, I pushed through the pain by reminding myself that I wasn't doing it only for me. My suffering had a purpose. Anyone who's walked or run a few miles to benefit a cause knows how motivating this can be. Just when you start to feel as if you have nothing left to give, you remember how difficult someone else's life is, and you can keep going. Perspective does wonders. (I love this sign, spotted at a marathon to benefit cancer research: "Blisters don't require chemo".) So I strapped a bag of ice onto each shin and slogged it out for the final 232 miles, my legs the center of my universe, tormenting me for the next five days, all the way to the finish.
- Ulrich Marshall, "Running on Empty"


This next quote was found on the internet when I typed in "how do you accept people you don't like" - and in this great article on "how not to give a fuck" was a great quote relevant to ultra running.

What it takes to move past anything is to simply realize that your obstacle is unimportant, and that it can be dismissed. This is true whether you’re running a marathon or trying to get to Mars. If you dismiss the things that do not matter; if you remove those things from your mind and focus on what must be done; if you understand that your time is limited and decide to work now; only then will you be able to get to the finish line. Otherwise, you will be dissuaded into living a life you aren’t interested in.
- Julien Smith, “The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck


And by the same bloke:


In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run.


How true, how true...


Don't get emotional about the race location and its environmental conditions - you are here not to battle against the terrain, the weather, and the nature but to accept them in your struggle. Hills and surf, wind and hail, jellyfish and heatwaves are indifferent to you and the rest of humanity; they just are. Accept (or surrender) to the conditions as overpowering equalizers, or as additional challenge, and this may make you accept or even enjoy it.
- Anonymous


From Vanessa Run (www.vanessaruns.com) - to remind me why I want to tackle 100+ miles...

Quite simply, I run 100 miles because it’s the only thing I do that demands my all.
Every.
Last.
Ounce.
Of.
Me.
This distance takes from me all that I have, and the thrill of surrendering myself to the trail—to that extreme—is unparalleled.


And from Mr Adventure himself:

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.
Jack London, Call of the Wild


A new one from a great book:

Doing something like running 100 miles might seem extreme, but for me that is the very reason that it should be done. If I can push myself to the brink of me, to the edge of my own sanity, to the point that doing something as mundane as taking a single step forward seems impossible; if I can persevere in that moment, and fight off every demon or instinct that tells me to quit, if I can tell my body to move, even though my brain says I am spent, then I know I will be fine. If I can will my mind to be still, even as it races for a way out of hell, I will be fine.
Dave Clark: Out there: a story of ultra recovery

 

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