Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Talked with a friend about ultra-running tonight. He does it, I talk about it. Both seem worthwhile to me. I dream about it and consider doing it, he dreams about it and does it. He is a generous guy and tells me that I should give it a go. I think he knows that what I need is a bit of a push. It's good to know friends like this who are working on a level above that which I spend my time in. They tug and push me gently into bettering myself.

Back to this idea of running a really long run. A fair number of people ask me if I don't first want to tackle a marathon. You know, take that on before trying to go longer than the marathon. I don't think so. I mean, I can see where that sounds like a sensible idea, but for me, the marathon isn't very interesting.

Before anyone reads that incorrectly, I did not say that I find marathons boring or too easy. I have never run 26.2 miles and so I have no idea what a marathon would really be like. I have done a half marathon, but I'm pretty sure that a half-marathon is the equivalent of being the father during the birth of a child. It's work, but it isn't anything compared to what the mother goes through.

I just don't have much interest in the marathon as it seems like the sort of thing I would have to have a training plan for, the type of run that I would be thinking about times during, and an activity in which I would be racing myself and others. None of that is very interesting to me.

An ultra, by comparison, seems to me to be all about finishing, surviving, testing limits, and getting out into some place scenic. It also seems all about being with people like my friend who was over for dinner tonight.

He's a smart guy who likes to talk and listen to others talk. He's better read than I am and always handy with a book recommendation. That and he listens to other people's book suggestions and dives right into them. And when he talks about running ultras it's never about how great he has done or even about how far he has run. He talks instead about moments when he felt one way or another, times when he realized something, and lots of times when other runners taught him basic lessons of running and kindness.

If running ultras is anything like having my friend over for dinner, then that's the running I aspire to. And here's the thing: it doesn't take fifty miles of running to understand some of what an ultra can teach me. I have been finding more and more that I am meditating into a run. I don't think about my world or even myself that much on runs. I take time during the run for a body scan. I work from my toes up to my head in a very literal sense, but these are checks I perform for a few moments just to be healthy. After that, for the most part, I'm letting go of my consciousness on the run.

Many runners talk about how they couldn't imagine running without music. Yeah, I can understand that. I ran with music for a long time and I do almost everything else in my life (including this writing) with music playing in the background. But for a year or so I haven't run with music because I found it taking me away from the run. When I go out for a few miles, I want the running to be everything. I was about to say that I want to "lose myself in it" but that's not it. I want to find the run in the run.

Ultra-running sounds to me like it's all about finding the run, being in the run, getting beyond self, and learning things that only the long run can teach. All of that sounds good to me. Really good. Who knows, I might even have to actually try it and not just imagine what it's like.

As things stand tonight, it's a bit late to start out on a long run. Instead, I'll finish typing and turn out the light for bed. I'll go to sleep tonight and wake in the morning ready for some miles. If I think about anything other than the run it will be about running longer and trying something new. That's what life ought to be about. That's what all this writing has been about over the past few months.

My friend knows what he's talking about most all of the time. I followed his descriptions and stories through the evening and now that I'm getting ready for sleep, I find myself imagining a trail running up the side of a mountain. I'm on the trail, taking one step at a time, moving through it and feeling every moment. Just like I've felt every letter of every word in this entry and wanted to keep going and going, writing on and on and on.

Run and write on.