"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So, what's the story to be?

I've been thinking - always a dangerous thing.

I'm a storyteller. In the end, our lives are just the stories we tell ourselves. The problem I'm having with planning to race next year is in deciding what story I want to tell. Is it "Rocky Balboa" (the sixth and I hope last Rocky), the over-the-hill athlete who feels something deep inside that makes him want to show just once more what he's got, even though he has no chance of winning? Maybe.

Ultralength races have a sort of clubbishness to them and the more extreme, the tighter that bond becomes. At ultras around here, the Arrowhead 135 group don't seem to bother much with anyone else, sticking to the "real" tough guys. The most common reason people give for running the Sawtooth 100 is to be part of the club, to be stamped as someone who's done the big local baddie.

On the 4th of July this year, I got introduced to a woman as someone who runs tough trail races. "Have you done Trail Mix?" she asked, it being the hardest race she's ever encountered. "He won it, dear," her husband said. She blushed. Then he asked, "Have you done Superior?" Well, no, I didn't finish; you see, I had a broken hand... It's the story. It's a good story, as far as it goes.

People are scurrying right now to enter the lotteries for most of the big races next year. Why? For the same reason people still run the Boston Marathon - it's the one people have heard of; after you tell someone you've finished a marathon, you invariably get asked "Have you done Boston?" (I have. It sucked.) In ultras, Western States is the oldest, has one of the largest fields and has some very talented runners winning - people who've done it tell me, "It's different. You have to experience it," but they never can say why. Everyone has some ridiculous race in the back of their mind - Hardrock is mine, others have Badwater - but, other than the challenge to finish, it's just wanting to be able to say, "Yeah, I've done that."

It's the story that's important to me.

If I train for the race and finish, what's the story? I don't always know in advance; the silly Wildwoods 25K race report is a prime example - I ran it and found the story in the running of it.

I think I need to outline the story before I can really train to run the Superior 100.


wildknits said...

Interesting perspective......

JojaJogger said...

If you had known the story of Wildwoods, would you have run that race? I find that the story that unfolds during the hours (and days) of an ultra is part of the intrigue (for me anyways).