I’ve been needing to write about this for a while now. I say I need to have a reason. It’s always on my mind. I avoid it because I am already convinced no reason will suffice.
What drives me, or rather, what draws me…
Truth-be-told, I don’t feel much drive. What I feel is a tangible pull on that place inside me, the one responsible for so many of the major decisions I’ve made in my life. The pull lifts me out of bed, draws me toward the woods. It dissipates into a light airiness mixed with a bright warmth when I roll through the hills, blinded by glimpses of new sun. The forest is speckled with shadows, and I swear the dirt giggles, the rocks shake off the night, the river breathes a sigh of relief. I gasp when I look a certain way, catch a particular view. It is morning – the precious hour after time stands still and before it flits away. I see no one. I hear every sound – the toads are antelope, the chipmunks are gorillas. The birds prepare their song for the day ahead. I am a captive audience.
It’s something about the smell – the transition from one stage to the next. Able legs turning corners, skipping over roots, dancing around rocks, letting go and flying recklessly down hills, trusting they will catch me, knowing they will respond, knowing that each time they get stronger. Occasionally I glance at my watch, counting the minutes I have left, not the minutes I still have to go. Because I don’t have to go. I don’t have to do this at all.
Twisted Branch training pushed me to a point I’ve never been. Multiple points, actually. For the first time I woke in the middle of the night and cringed at the thought of waking up a few hours later to run. I went from just moving to make it through the winter, to speed workouts, hill workouts, and back-to-back long runs practically overnight. I asked my body to do more, to go farther, to push harder, to climb higher, and it did. It said okay. It balked at points – taking it out on my foot, my calf, my knee, and at times, the most painful, my psyche, but for the most part it agreed.
So why have I done it? Perhaps because whether I was “training” or not, I would have wanted to be out. Being unattached, disconnected, with no one and nothing save myself and, when the occasion called, my pack, puts me at the base-line of who I am; it is from this point that I can approach the remainder of the day with a sound mind, a full soul, and something to give.
But then, why Twisted Branch? Why 100k? It wasn’t the next natural step. I don’t feel I have anything to prove. Now that I’m here and I’m going to make it to the starting line the reality is setting in that I’ve done all I can. The hardest work is done. I can’t go back and change any of it now. All I can do is keep myself sharp while slowly easing back, hopefully resulting in more energy and excitement come August 29th.
The reality is that this “race” could take upwards of 16 hours. In fact, it probably will. That’s terrifying. How can anyone move across rugged terrain for that long, much less run? I might not finish. It could happen. But what if I do? What if I cross the finish line, bruised and cut and beat-up and depleted… and then, what if I’m happy?
I can’t keep thinking about why, and so I have to conclude that there is no good reason. This is something intrinsically driven, entirely for me. It does not make sense. It defies logic. It is far more than a love for the run. I cannot explain it, and even if I could, it would be understood by no one other than the minority who do the same thing. Amongst one another there is no need to explain why. Our reasons are different and the same; something connects. But amongst the rest of the world, if I must explain, it will never make sense.
And so, for the sake of my own sanity, I’m choosing not to explain. If you get it you don’t need it, and if you don’t, you won’t. And that’s okay. The part of me that understands the natural world can get over the fact that this will never make sense, and the part of me that understands nothing of the natural world will sigh with relief as I accept this part of me, inexplicable, beautiful, tragic, and for some reason, necessary.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman