JANUARY 5, 2015
As I take the next step in my running journey – becoming a competitive ultra-runner – it was suggested that I start a blog. Not only is it an outlet for the myriad of brain droppings that occur when one is 12 miles deep on a mountain trail, but the blog acts as a communication tool amongst the running community. In particular it allows training buddies, competitors, and kindred spirits of the trail an insight into thoughts and emotions experienced throughout the ultra-distance races we choose to indulge in. I’ve developed a keen interest in my compadres’ blogs and race reports, so I am thrilled to join in on the fun!
For my first blog post I’ll attempt to illustrate my perspective on running, in particular the MUT (Mountain-Ultra-Trail) running scene I’m drawn to, if not for anyone but myself. What better way to start the next phase of training than to figure out why the hell I’m doing this in the first place. Well, here we go…
It’s a tribe. When they see each other out on a run they are sure to offer a nod, a hello, a quick exchange of some sort because… they know. Like the cool low-hand wave of one motorcyclist to another, they acknowledge those in the tribe. And yes folks, they are the Hells Angels of the running community – MUTs.
They can, however, be misunderstood by those in other tribes.
People often will ask us what is the point of all that running? It’s as though there is a language barrier between non-runners and runners. Sure, you can offer up some sarcastic, Forrest Gump type of response – “I just feel like run’ning.” But perhaps it’s time to elaborate.
There is not a simple answer to “Why run?” or “What to run for?” Nor is there only one answer. There are countless reasons runners have for doing what they do. Everyone has his or her own motivations. There is, however, a common bond amongst all the kindred spirits of the trail that can be shared.
Allow me to introduce this tribe of MUTs I’ve stumbled across.
They seek to live. They want to be alive in its truest sense. They want to dive head first into human experience and soak in its deepest waters. These people don’t rest fulfilled with a good view of the mountain, they long to explore and confront the mountain. It is there, on the trail, where they feel fully aware of this life. The trail is their ally. It aids in opening the door to what is genuine and real – internally, and out. They yearn to sense the limits of human potential and they want to take it further. They want to feel emotions. They want to feel pain just as much as joy because what is awesome is simply to feel. They live to bask in satisfactions and triumphs as much as they have learned to appreciate failure and disappointment. It is being in the arena, in the game, that it the gift. They are in love with it, with being alive and trail running is a celebration of this.
Let the wild rumpus begin!
Accomplishment, Play, Refreshment, Freedom, Connection, Balance, and Assurance
Accomplishment. More importantly, goals. They can’t imagine a life without goals. Be it work, family, social, or personal…they crave something to work on. (Or maybe the tribe is just scared shitless of stagnancy) Setting running goals daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly gives a constant feeling of climbing towards something bigger, with the satisfaction of small rewards along the way. These goals and achievements offer up a rich source of fulfillment and another reason to get excited about waking up tomorrow.
Play. A boys gotta get his play on. A girl too for that matter. There is nothing like feeling wild. They love to run really fast down hills, and climb really hard up gnarly trails to be the King of the Mountain. Literally, they still play King of the Mountain. Only the object isn’t to be on top for the longest amount of time. Rather, it’s who got the fastest time getting there! Furthermore, there is something special that happens when you allow your mind to be completely consumed in something for a while. Some call it Flow. When cruising swiftly on a trail, the mind is constantly making hundreds of decisions with the body, allowing for each footstep to fall in just the right place as to float over a rocky terrain. Time seems to disappear and they discover a small glimpse of what “being in the moment” truly is.
Refreshment. Society is busy and there is shit everywhere. They gots’ to take a break. A few hours in the mountains away from cars and advertisements and money and electronics and blah blah, is necessary. Like a cold brewski on a hot summer day, a long run on a cluttered mind works wonders. Those who are close to them know it when it’s needed. They won’t hesitate to say, “Hey, you need to run.” Exchanging roads for trails, TV and computers for mountaintop views, noise for silence, sitting in traffic for sitting in a water-hole, texting and Facebook for a good conversation with a friend – these are among the best tonics for what ales ya.
Freedom. Now we’re not talking some William Wallace Braveheart shit here. But we kind of are. When they run, they are completely and utterly free. Isn’t that amazing? They can go wherever they want. They have no deadlines or directions. There are no responsibilities, cares or worries in the world. The only thing they have to do, is whatever they want. Right now, that happens to be run around on trails for a while. Life will catch back up later. For now, they are free. Freeeeeeeeedooommmmmm!
Connection. Here’s an insight from one of the tribe. When he asked his father-in-law if he could have his daughter’s hand in marriage the father-in-law asked among other inquisitions, “What are your thoughts on God?” It’s a question he certainly wasn’t prepared for. (And almost crapped his pants in fear of saying the wrong answer!) After a brief moment of introspection, this was his response. “Sir, I don’t know if there is a God or not, but I go to church every week. I am religious about it, and I never miss a Sunday. It happens to be that my church is the mountains and my worship is the long run. I connect with something greater out there that I have yet to find anywhere else. Feelings of gratitude, peace, compassion and love come back home with me. So if there is a Higher Power out there, that’s our relationship.” They may all have different religions or spirituality, but the trail is a place for anyone to feel some type of connection.
Balance. Mind and Body. Work and Play. Moderation and Moderation. You know what I mean? They don’t like when there isn’t a solid balance in life. They get their sea legs on and find themselves rocking around restlessly. Staying disciplined with running helps them stay disciplined in other facets of life. It’s no secret that the tribe knows how to have a good time. In fact, some of them are too good at that. Buy hey, they will less likely need to take a cab home on Saturday night if they’re getting up balls early to go running Sunday morning. They’ll just have a beer or two and drive themselves, thank you.
Assurance. Life sometimes gets heady and confusing. Sometimes they doubt themselves. They may wonder if they have the right job, make enough money, if they’re a good husband, wife, etc. Sometimes the darkness can creep over – these puzzling reservations that they are on the right path, making the right decisions, and living how they should undermine their disposition.
For some reason that’s unexplainable, running extinguishes these uncertainties. Something creeps over while running and lingers around afterwards. It’s this feeling, or hunch, that everything is OK. It’s like slipping into a warm bed on a bitter-cold evening. It’s so comforting.
As long as they keep running, they know they’re on the right track. Everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be.
Membership to the tribe is easy. Go find a trail.