The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. ~Robert M. Pirsig
In the days and weeks leading up to my first 100 miler, The Bear in 2008, I was of the mindset that finishing something of such magnitude would somehow change my life. I had a sense that, if and when I finished, there would be some sort of tangible change. A switch would be flipped and I would be a new Aaron in a new phase of my life. I would be better and shinier somehow. Angels would trumpet and the sweet smell of success would linger about my general vicinity. But it did not happen that way.
I finished, got my buckle, celebrated with the other runners and enjoyed the rest of the weekend. And that was about it. At work on Monday a few people said congratulations, a few shook their head in confusion as to why someone would do such a thing. And then it was back to life. I still had to go to work, take out the trash, pay bills and deal with the minutiae of existence. It was all rather anti-climactic and it certainly did not change my life in one definitive moment.
It took me some time to come to terms with this. Outside of our little tribe there is little merit in doing what we do and running 100 miles does not translate well into the popular definition of success. But I am a slow learner and my expectations always seem to outweigh reality. For a long time I had the notion that if I could capture the perfect race I would come out the other side a changed person.
Fast forward to 11 A.M. on June 20th, 2014. Since then I have run a dozen or so 100's, run several other races and logged countless miles on roads, trails and through back country wilderness. Some runs are forced, dreary slogs pounded out for the sake of future fitness. Some are unexpectedly sublime romps through some of the most amazing places on the planet. Throughout it all there has never been an "aha" moment for me. No blazing impression of crossing some finite threshold. However, I am no longer the same animal I was when I started running. That is undeniable.
When I started the Bighorn 100 this year, there was never a moment of nervousness, doubt or apprehension. I knew that I would be able to deal with whatever challenges I met on that day. I knew that I would have low points that would challenge my resolve. I knew that I would balance smart decisions with calculated audacity. Most of all, I was perfectly comfortable throwing myself into an uncomfortable situation with confidence, running or otherwise.
As I closed in on the finish line of the Bighorn 100 this year I was acutely aware that I have changed to a discernible measure over the last several years and that seeking out big challenges has a lot to do with that change. It is not crossing an arbitrary line that makes us who we are, rather what we do every day that changes us into something more.
What are you doing today?
|Shoot for the stars. PEW! PEW!|