Monday, April 29, 2013

"You can't beat death, but you can beat death in life, sometimes."

Reading Amy Rosenbaum Clark's fabulous article All in the Mind in April's Upper Midwest Trail Runners newsletter this morning, I was reminded of a quote I read in Travis Wildeboer's 2013 Barkley Marathons race report The 60-hour day that Andrew Thompson, the 8th finisher of the Barkley in 2009, said to Jonathan "Jonboy" Basham on their drive to the race in 2010 before Jonathan became the 9th finisher of the Barkley,

“You're entering a tunnel Jonboy,” said Thompson, “and there is no way out other than the other side.”

That's how you finish an ultra; you go into a tunnel and you don't come out until the finish. Come race day, after all the training is over and your kit is packed, it's all mental. During these events, that old mantra, "This isn't hard. This just is," constantly flows through my head. Though recently, that's morphed into everything: "It's raining. That's just how this is now." "My feet are wet. That's just how they are now." "My legs hurt. That's just how they feel now." Somehow, accepting my current conditions as they are with the mentality of, "So what? This is how it is now. Keep moving," really helps me keep going through that tunnel to the other side.

This mentality has seeped into every other aspect of my life. Life's hurdles and challenges that once seemed so daunting don't seem so big anymore. These events have taught me so much about life, about myself, about what's truly important.

I don't often remember my dreams, but thinking about that triggered memories of mine from last night. In my head, I was deep into loop 3 of the Barkley with a few faceless others, scaling a wall onto a thin ledge high above the valley, too extreme, too dangerous, even for the Barkley, watching the clock, knowing it was time to leave the others behind and keep going through that tunnel to the other side.

These things we do are fantastic. We're choosing to live life, to cheat death. How can we not laugh, smile, and giggle the entire time?

"your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you."

— Charles Bukowski