The streak lives on and for the tenth time this year I made it up and down America's mountain in one piece. Gone are the days where a single handheld is all that is needed for the journey. A jacket, gloves, and a hat have become mandatory accessories now that snow and single digit temperatures are the expectation. On this go around, Scott and I climbed together enjoying the sparsely populated Barr trail on a frosty fall day. At the top, I also got to say a brief hello to Andy before making the solo return trip.
As it's seemingly gone from summer to winter, the abrupt change has led me to devote more time wondering why I choose to spend my weekends in this manner. Why indeed! It's a common query for many. In given week, it's not unusual for a coworker or family member to try to decipher the rationality behind my ultrarunning pursuits. And in fact, I just recently answered a questionnaire for friend gathering information for an upcoming iRunFar article on the topic. My reasons are always ever changing and varied. But oddly enough, the ones I end up choosing oftentimes seem insufficent when put into words. So much so, that I begin myself to question "why?".
Well the answer, for this week at least, has been inspired by an article I recently read that touts exercise, mindfulness, social connection, and play as ways to cultivate resilience. Coincidentally, adventures with those four tenets are my favorite kind!
Running is commonly lauded for it's physical health benefits and as a release from daily stressors. After a crazy work week, going for a run does wonders in helping you let go of all the 9 to 5 worries. No time clocks. No deadlines. No paperwork. Just footsteps. But what if there was some preventative value to be had as well.
A self-inflicted hardship in the form of a 6 hour run in single digit temperatures with 8,000 ft of climbing is a challenge. But it's a calculated challenge and one that I'm 99.999% likely to overcome. Sure, I'll inevitably feel some combination of cold, tired, and hungry and the notion of stopping will enter my mind at least once. I may be sore later or perhaps sprain an ankle and have to take some time off but I'll eventually return. I know this because there is too much adventure to be experienced, too many amazing sights, and too many stories to share with friends along the way.
Over time, embracing and overcoming relatively minor challenge after minor challenge bolsters confidence in the idea that "yeah things aren't great now, but they'll get better." It seems to me that being able to generalize this ability to find comfort in the uncomfortable is an incredibly useful tool. Not for doing well in races but more importantly for the parts of life when one doesn't wear running shoes.
I've been fortunate in that the trials and tribulations in my life have been relatively few and far between, but I realize that it's not this way for everyone. When I hear of a friend going through a rough patch, I think to myself "at least they're a runner," because they're sure to have a well of resiliency to tap into. Somehow, a little struggle on the mountain makes life's tragedies, whether past or yet to occur, a tiny bit gentler to deal with. It helps you appreciate the beautiful things more and lessen your resistance to adversity, with the realization that life wouldn't be as joyous without a little sorrow. And the nice thing is, it doesn't require a mountain. Whether it be one mile, five miles, or fifty miles, walking, cycling, or swimming, they're all just details that are individual-dependent and are ultimately unimportant. What matters is the investment of effort because that's what gives the experience purpose.
And speaking of "investments of effort," I'm super excited to finally be able to put all that radar sprinting to use. The Werewolves of Manitou, sponsored by your very own PikesPeakSports, will be making their debut at the Emma Crawford Coffin Races at the end of the month... AWOOOO!