I have only run in a few races over the past year. My lack of competitive attitude has for the most part kept me away and has at times been a moral dilemma for myself. The main reason I run is for the solitude and sense of being it brings. I feel a part of the landscape I am running in almost dissolved and blended in with the surroundings, free of time or desire. I used to wear costumes or run in events under goofy pseudo names to make myself feel better about it. Over the past year of running strictly on my own I have been able to put things in perspective and develop a peace of mind about races. To me being competitive means being shackled by the same mindset as a greedy CEO or politician. I know that may not be the case but at least that’s how I feel about competition. Is there a difference between putting that much tenacity into running and that of climbing the corporate ladder?
In December while back in Virginia I ran the Bear Creek 10 miler. What a wild run through snowy,muddy,narrow trails with several frigid creek crossings. Participating in the event rekindled my love of running in races. Not for competitive reasons but for the power of running to bring people together. I thought how cool it was for a bunch of people to gather on a Sunday morning and go through a romp in the woods. To me that is celebrating life! Richmond has a great running community, people who are just stoked on it. I remembered how cool it was to be a part of races, running with and not against people. For the first time I ran completely detached from the outcome and ran with the surroundings, noticing the curves, twists, contours of the trail and felt the icy water as I crossed creeks. I felt like a kid and there were about 100 other people out there having a similar experience, sort of collective effervescence. In a way races are about people gathering together and celebrating the joy of running. It would maybe be more appealing if more people saw it that way as opposed to having the latest gear or worrying about shaving seconds. The key for me was being completely detached from the outcome and free of desire. I tried to just experience the moment. That was indeed a revelation. I left those Piedmont trails feeling as wild and joyous as ever.
(Before the start of the Bear Creek 10 in December)
I felt like I did in the days when I first started running. I wanted to keep this positive outlook so I signed up for the Big Island Marathon in December knowing I would have moments of cynicism that may prevent me from signing up at a later date. Thank you Kahlil Gibran for writing this:
“Your soul is a battlefield upon which your reasons and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite. Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.”
Leading up to the Big Island Marathon I have had some solid weeks of running, 20 mile trail runs in Volcano followed by paddling in Hilo Bay for a few hours. I have come to love paddling just as much as running. They are similar medians that leave me with the same joyous feeling. The ocean and mountains are my two greatest inspirations. Despite not being able to run every other week due to my work schedule I was in decent shape and looking forward to the marathon. I was in the middle of a work week and was graciously let off to run by my supervisor Chris. The night before I made it into Hilo around midnight after being pulled over and surrounded by police cars. I just pulled out of a grocery store parking lot after buying some bagels for my pre race breakfast. I was so exhausted I forgot to turn my headlights on. I can imagine what the officers thought after seeing me with a muffin in hand and droopy eyes. I explained my situation and was let go with a warning! I managed a few hours of sleep in my van before waking up to catch the bus to the start. I barely remember anything of the bus ride except sitting in a daze. At the starting area my mind was humming like a full moon as the trees sighed in the stillness of dawn. I had no competitive aspirations, just wanted to run hard from start to finish. I loved running down the Hamakua Coast as the sun was rising. There were some pretty spectacular views of the ocean and jagged coastline that gave me inspiration early on. I thought of Jenn who was also running a marathon back in VA the same morning, and was also planning on hammering from the start. I felt uncomfortable from the start at the pace I was running but saw some humor in it. I wanted run a hard half marathon and just try to hold on for the second half. A strategy that was flawed from the moment it entered my mind, but again I thought it was funny so I went ahead and did it. The first few miles I was out of control, hooting, hollering, and singing. It seemed whenever I was having a low something, someone, or some thought would pump me up. Near mile 8 a husky puppy darted out of a bunch of banana trees and ran behind me for a few yards. I immediately thought of Ribbit and became manic and picked up the pace even more. Me and Ribbit have the ability to make one another hyper and out of control, and I thought of our wild runs through the mountains in Oregon.
(Ribbit on the slopes of South Sister)
At the halfway point I am pretty sure I went through faster than my PR of 1:16, but who knows I did not have a watch. I was starting to feel pretty crappy when I saw friends Drew and Kati on the side of the road absolutely loosing it, cheering. That was a breath of fresh air that I breathed in for a few miles. I was trying to stay positive, thinking of things that inspire me. The surf film Litmus has been highly inspirational in my life for years. I was thinking of Derek Hynd who seeks new perspectives and new ways to ride waves. Exactly the madman spirit I needed. The way he rides waves has been impactful on my running, he does not give a damn!
By mile 20 I felt like I was on a sinking ship, a sinking ship that was burning. I saw Drew and Kati again near mile 21 and they were still losing it which pumped me up but by that point not much could help my situation. I was just trying to dodge bullets, waiting for Stagger Lee to appear from behind every bush to gun me down.
Luckily that did not happen and I was able to run in the last few miles at a much diminished pace. I was ready to be done but it felt good to be a little reckless.
I really dread attention especially for running, something that is so personal to me. I would not mind winning an award if I did some noble deed, but for running? I felt a little silly afterwards, probably is a reason why I wanted to high tail it away from there immediately afterwards. After eating a Ken’s House of Pancakes I felt tremendously better. After eating I wanted to get back to the finish to cheer others in and see people finish. All in all I had a blast, for me it’s all about the experience and it was most great sharing it with 900 others.
There was a really funny/melodramatic article written calling me “The Ghost”
Disclaimer: Drew made this video that mocks me, the race, and I think running in general.