FACING THE CHALLENGES
I think it's safe to say that as runners, we are constantly challenging ourselves to do things that are beyond what any average Dick or Jane in this world might care to contemplate. Getting out of bed at 5:30am to do a six-miler before work, running 18-miles on the flat and unexciting Heritage Trail because your marathon training requires it, or getting in your car to drive in the pouring rain to a 10K race – these are all challenges that only a runner can truly and heartily understand. They are challenges that we actively choose, yes, but however it is that you wish to classify them, they readily separate us from the significant majority of what we might call “normal” society.
But one of the biggest challenges we face - especially as we move along both the age timeline, and in our individual running development - is the prospect of time. And when I say ‘time' in this context, I'm referring to either the race clock or your runner's watch. We get in the habit of measuring our running in terms of minutes and seconds; or in longer runs and races, in hours, minutes and seconds. Many of us keep personal, detailed records of our race times. And through some of the more high-tech computer and time measurement tools available to us, all of our training runs and the respective distances and elapsed time of each, as well. We might ask ourselves things like ‘How fast did I run this 10K? Was it slower than two years ago? If yes, what does that say about the value and quality of my running? In some respects, the time factor may actually detract from our running, becoming more of a demoralizing factor than anything else.
And although I will confess that there is inherent value in knowing how fast we can run (or have run), in the end, it is all entirely relative. And thus, perhaps irrelevant. I would therefore challenge you all to – at least from time to time (no pun intended) - throw your clock out the window, as it were, and run without time as part of the equation.
Continuing on the subject of challenges, the Orange Runners Club participated in an especially unique challenge on Saturday, May 8 th in Harriman State Park. Six club members formed the team that was the Arden Valley aid station at the North Face Challenge, supporting the 50-mile, 50K and Marathon races that were part of the collective events based in Bear Mountain. As well as the volunteer side, a few club members even took part as participants in these very lengthy races.
Watching all the runners parade one-by-one through our checkpoint at the 14-mile mark on the course(s), it was apparent that for most of them, time was not a consideration. Except for the few who had showed up to actually try and win, it seemed to be merely a matter of going the distance, getting to the finish line, and enjoying the experience along the way. And that they did. It gave me an even greater appreciation for what running should really be about.
A friend of mine once remarked to me as we were running the Appalachian Trail two summers ago, “this is real running.” And I know now that he said that not because we were running in the woods (as opposed to the roads), but because we were running in a place where time didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to enjoy the ride.
And so my friends, as we begin the Summer of 2010 and have the opportunity to enjoy the warmth of Mother Earth yet again, I encourage each and every one of you to choose and then actively pursue all of the challenges that you are most passionate about. And whatever challenges you put out there for yourself, pursue them with vigor and heart. Run faster. Run farther. Run more weekly miles. Or perhaps even accept the challenge of merely running for the sake of running itself, without any form of measurement. You might be glad you did.