It was the quietest of voices in my head. I normally heard, “This is going to SUCK,” “You suck so bad,” “Look at her, she’s so much faster than you AND she’s got a great ass too!” etc etc. You know, all the negative thoughts that go thru my head when I run. All those thoughts crowded out that one quiet thought, the little thought that simply said, “I really want to do this.”
I was standing under a pop up tent in the rain. It was still dark and the 32 mile race began at 7am. It was a San Francisco monsoon. 4 days of rain and still raining. The few runners that did show up (from 594 runners to a mere 300) were all huddled under this one tent, our feet soaked and muddy just walking to the race trailhead.
One older gentleman looked at me shivering and gave me his garbage bag that he was wearing, complete with cutouts for the head and arms. I thanked him profusely. I had good technical gear that supposedly warms up when I start running, but it was the pre-dawn hours and we were just waiting. Waiting.
The course had been re-routed. Since we were running trails, the entire trail system was soaked, there were dangers of landslides, and god know what 300+ pairs of feet would do to such a fragile eco-system when it was already overloaded.
I know in my few years of running that many people often ask, “Why run?” It is an odd question to answer and I’m sure every runner has an individual answer. I myself know I’m not fast, and I kinda run funny (I actually have a small limp since one of my legs is actually shorter than the other -go ahead, you wouldn’t be the first to call me “Igor”), but for me, running really comes down to this:
I get to be outdoors for the next 8 hours in the most inclement weather San Francisco can offer.
I get to slide down hills of mud on my back AND on my chest.
I get to jump over rivers of water and sometimes splash right thru it.
I get to pull my feet out of ankle deep clay one at at time, making me exhausted and giving me only a 6 inch difference from the last step I took.
I get to slip and fall and have someone laugh at me, and then THEY slip and fall and we both laugh about it.
I get to breathe the freshest of morning air mixed with mist and salt ocean water.
When I stop, I get to watch the fog churn in the deep valley below me, or I get to watch the fog roll like tumbleweeds on the path in front of me.
I get to figuratively give my mom the middle finger: I’m getting dirty! I’m outside! I don’t want to stay home and practice the piano, I want to be outside wearing very little clothing and possibly getting pneumonia and loving every minute of it!
Now don’t get me wrong. I too get caught up in the science of running: I want faster split times, I want to win a place in my age group, I want to prove that I’m bigger/better/stronger/faster. (Or at least earn a great ass in the process.)
But in the end, running in the right place at the right time with the right amount of exhaustion sometimes brings on a kind of nirvana, a realization of how primal we humans can be and how close to perfect the world really is.
One of you readers named “Les” had commented on my last blog by giving me the advice, “RUN, do it and run as much as you can.” Wherever you are Les, thank you for reminding me of the simplicity of running. That advice helped clear my mind at that starting line, helped me hear that smallest of voices deep inside me, “I really want to do this,” and helped fuel every step along the race route. My inner voice thanks you for the kindest words at the right time.
And to all, I hope you too find your inner runner, or whatever it is that moves you forward in your lives.