Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 1 / 50 Miles or Bust!

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. ~ Matthew 24:13

     Well, here we are...finally! We are 90 days out from my first personal 50 mile ultra marathon. Over the last few weeks I have been spending time learning about Ultra Marathons and of the handful of men and women who have ventured to take on such a journey in mind and body. From reading books written by ultra marathoners themselves to watching documentaries, I have been trying to glean as much as I can to prepare both physically and psychologically. With this said, I can honestly say, this morning I am full of apprehension and do not enter this event with rose colored glasses. As a matter of fact, after learning and reading about the adventures of those who dare to go beyond the marathon, and run into the dimensions of an ultra, it has definitely sobered me up. Which I am sure is a good thing.

     I remember my first marathon like it was yesterday. As I write this blog an influx of memories arise within me. Like a digital clip, each memory is as real as the day I ran the 2003 Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan. The nervousness of an early morning start. My fellow runners, along with barefoot runner, who I thought was crazy as a I passed him, and then not so crazy as he passed me near the end. The rain that fell near the end of the race. The blister on my right foot. The first time, as a runner, 'hitting the wall'. The incredible pain of the last few miles. Coming to mile 24, tears began to stream down my cheeks, not because of the pain, but because I knew at that point, without a doubt, that I would finish this thing. Then, the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line. The tears, the joy, the elation...all bottled up in a sea of emotions called this human body. I can also remember, saying, "I will never run another marathon again!" You see, those memories reside within me. They have become me and who I am.

     A fellow runner, Jerome Drayton said, "To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who's never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind." And after running and completing nine marathons, I can definitely ascribe to the part about the pain. During the 26.2 miles of a marathon, there are places your mind and body take you. Places of euphoria, and then there are those places of pain. Sometimes the pain is in the body and sometimes the pain is in the mind...and yet, sometimes the pain resides in both, body and mind! Like the old Wide World of Sports intro I watched as a youth, when the announcer says, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!", I have been to some of these places.  On the one hand...I have 'hit the wall', I have 'bonked', and after sixteen weeks of hard training, I have had my marathon fall apart at mile 16. Then I have also felt the elation of meeting my goals, from qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and even finishing all nine marathons. Every marathon I have run in holds a place in my heart. I remember every marathon. Each individual marathon run has taught me about me. In the depths of a marathon race I have confronted the enemy, and the enemy was me...and it was here I found out who I am and in some sense, who I want to become.

     So then, I have wondered, if a marathon holds such a 'place' of contradiction in body and mind, THEN how much more does an ultra hold? All the stories read and told of ultras talk about the confrontation of self. It doesn't matter what place you come in or where you finish, it is about finishing! To confront yourself, to battle the voices, and to exercise dominion over the inner demons seems to be where the victory truly lies. It is the ultimate confrontation, like the Lord's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what laid ahead for Him. He knew the torturous pain of the cross, and He prayed, 'Not my will, but thy will be done.' All runners, whatever level of running they are at, have to pray this prayer...'not my will be done'. Because if we were to follow our will, many trophies with the word, 'quit' would populate our shelves and mantels.

     Herein probably lies the key to why so many people run marathons or for that matter, end up 'enjoying' running at all. When everything says 'quit', 'stop', 'don't go one more step forward', the runner must make a decision. He must consciously confront himself and then take full responsibility for the decision he makes...whether he quits or runs on, he must live with that decision, because it is his decision and his decision alone. Maybe in its purest of form this is a picture of life. Maybe because it seems so many of these decisions or choices have been removed from our lives or have been made so fuzzy by an ever encroaching society, that running becomes one of the few places we are able to say, 'we made the choice'!

     "There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be." (George Sheehan) So today, I choose to commit my body and my mind to train for an ultra marathon. I don't really know what lies ahead, but if its anything like training for a marathon, I know one thing, I will learn about life, and there is no doubt, I will learn about me. Not just the superficial me of who I think I am, but I will confront me in the deeper depths of me and who I really am, and who I long to be. So in the words of Jeb Dickerson, "My feet have several thousand meetings scheduled with the dirt on a trail not far from here. Who am I to keep them waiting? Time to run."

No comments:

Post a Comment