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SALT LAKE CITY — “You’re crazy!”
“Why would you do that?”
“What is wrong with you?”
On the other side, the encouragement from fellow pilgrims is intoxicating:
“Nice work, fella!”
“Dude, you killed it out there!”
“Way to be.”
Sure, long-distance running is hard. It requires time and physical and mental effort. It hurts, but you can stop when you want to stop. You are in control, or should be. There is always a finish line and a sense of accomplishment.
No, we aren’t solving the problems of the world, or even the problems of our neighborhood, but we are building ourselves into better people, certainly.
It may seem to be an entirely selfish pursuit, this drive to run “insanely long distances” (there’s that allusion to mental illness again), but from my own experience I have witnessed my own character arc of transformation over the past couple of years of intense running and adventuring activity.
You know how you look back at yourself to see how you’ve changed and what you’ve outgrown? You nod approvingly that you’ve come through a positive transformation. Running will do this to people, and the effect it has on the people around them can be measured as unselfishness. It is a positive addiction.
Of this, I can testify.
This is my claim: Running 100 miles is easier than not running 100 miles. There is no set distance to cover. It is uncertain. There are no time cutoffs. There is no finish line. You can't stop when you want to stop. There is no rest from it. There is aid, certainly, and the people manning the tent there are the ones who really love you. And they suffer too. It is hard for them too.
A few years ago I hated running. Why run when you can walk or hike? Or drive. The more I think of it, the more ridiculous it seems. Running. But then I remember the places my legs have taken me. To the heights, literal heights of mountain tops, and to the metaphoric and chemical heights only I can see and feel. I could go to and see more places than ever before. I finally recognized the gift I had been given, and ran with it. It was as if I was given a Ferrari. I could go places, powered with a strong, well-built engine. It was a joy to drive.
When the gift is withdrawn, and it doesn’t matter the reason, there will be an avalanche of depression.
There, I said it. I own it.
And anger, there will be anger, but directed at whom? Myself for perhaps flying too close to the sun and burning my wings. When facts and reality submerge and become routine, it is time to adapt or die.
When the ortho surgeon told me what I did not want to hear, I did not want to believe it. There was some hope, but it seems the future I had planned for myself has vanished, to be replaced by something else.
What it is or how it looks, I do not know. For now there is a healing and a therapeutic process in an attempt to make the best of the situation.
“How long is this process? When can I run again? Will I ever run again? Can I at least go hiking?” Can I even call myself an "ultra-runner" anymore?
There are no definite answers other than “maybe you can do some short runs.”
This is my claim: Running 100 miles is easier than not running 100 miles. There is no set distance to cover. It is uncertain. There are no time cutoffs. There is no finish line. You can’t stop when you want to stop. There is no rest from it. There is aid, certainly, and the people manning the tent there are the ones who really love you. And they suffer too. It is hard for them too.
I would rather run 100 miles than endure this. I would rather run 1,000 miles. Then I understand that now is the time to apply all those lessons I learned as an endurance athlete and apply them to real life.
It’s just running.
Matthew Van Horn is a husband, father of two boys, trail ultra-runner and mountaineer. The peaks and canyons of the Wasatch Range are his favorite places to be. You can read about his running adventures and races in a blog he shares with friends at www.refuse2quit.com.