In a few more hours we will all be in the second half of June. For the past 46 days, it has been a race every day.
It really doesn’t matter how you approach this race, Some have blown the 1000 Kilometers away, only to find that the Great RAT is like a nesting doll. Open one, and there is another inside. Others battle on, day after day, swapping blows with a relentless buzzard, their goal within reach, but out of sight. Returning day after day to buy the chance to do it all again tomorrow. Everyone is faced with a personal battle, to achieve the most they can achieve…. in four long months.
There have been some broken bodies along the way. But most of us have hardened our machines on the crucibles of roads, trails, and treadmills. And slowly we have come to realize that this is not a physical contest, it is a challenge of the mind.
Every day we go out, and win today. But the buzzards never stop. They never slow. They never let up. Tomorrow we must go out and win again, or we will be chasing our buzzard from behind. Some will fall by the wayside. Many will fall by the wayside. This is not an easy game…
“It is not fun any more.” No; sometimes it is not fun. Sometimes we have to work to squeeze out the time, when life tries to derail our long chase. Sometimes, and I hate to say this, but sometimes all of us would like a day off. A day off that does not cost us valuable ground.
“It is not fun any more.” It sounds so mundane. So ordinary. Yet, this is the real opponent of greatness, This is what every great athlete must face. It is not dramatic, it is not glamorous, it is not scintillating. They will never make movies about it. But this is the enemy that every great athlete must overcome. Do you think that when Tom Brady and Peyton manning went to the film room while every other quarterback was taking off, that there was never a day that they thought; “This is not fun any more.” Do you think when Larry Bird was heading to the gym to shoot on Christmas day he never thought; “This is not fun any more.”
It is the same in every hundred miler, or multi day. There comes that point when; “This is not fun any more.” The winners. The ones who cross the finish line, with tears of Joy… Can it really be that simple. For all the training. For all the obstacles, the high mountains, the river crossings, all those breathtaking challenges that the long runners face, that is not the enemy. That the defensive linemen trying to take off a quarterback’s head, or the defensive geniuses trying to disguise the defenses, those are not what stands in the way. For every Magic Johnson or Karl Malone seeking to thwart them, that it all came down to something as basic as putting on our shoes and going out the door when; “This isn’t fun any more”?
The funny thing (or maybe not), it is fun. I have watched the corn being planted, and grow to head height. I will get to watch it tassel, and grow ears. I will see it turn brown, and eventually feed the combine, leaving an empty field just like the one I saw when all this started. I listened to the birds, as they staked out their territories, watched them build nests. I will see the babies learn to fly, and head out on their own. I get to watch the flowers come and go, each with their own particular piece of the summer. I have seen the fawns, calves, and colts when they were so tiny they lay hidden in the grass, and now i see them following their mothers. By the end of the summer they will be young deer, cows, and horses. Take out the earplugs and turn off the podcasts. Running is not a boring activity unless you let it be. Open your eyes and ears; see and hear the world around you. It does not matter where you live, your world has its own rhythms. The runner can become a part of that world in a way that no one else can.
That is the real secret of the great ones. Manning and Brady, once in the film room, feel the joy of finding that tiny weakness to exploit. Larry Bird, shooting in the lonely gym, feels the incomparable sensation of getting his shots in a rhythm. The ball, like an extension of himself flowing from his fingertips and arching thru the net without touching the rim. No music is sweeter than the sound of the ball swishing thru the net. And you and I, when we realize that the miles have been melting away under our feet with no conscious effort, and we are just riding the wave and experiencing the world around us.
Every day is a victory, but every tomorrow is another race. And this is only June. But it is halfway thru, and a couple more weeks will bring us to July. July when the race will hit its bitter apogee. When the heat is the hottest. the fatigue the tiredest, the ennui the most overwhelming,the temptation to simply quit sings its sweetest siren song. No one will blame you if you stop. This race makes no logical sense.
Except that August is still waiting. August is the reward. August is the playoffs and August 31st is the championships. They are there, but only for the strongest of will.
August is when you catch the first whiffs of the barn, and the smell grows stronger every day, until you finally see the soft, sweet hay inside. August is when you see the dim glow on the horizon, that grows brighter every day, until you finally emerge under the bright lights. August is when you first glimpse the mountains, a faint line that you think might just be clouds, until they grow clearer and clearer… until the day you climb to the very summit.
And when you are asked; “How did you ever climb this mountain?” You cannot answer. How could an outsider ever understand? Climbing the mountain was nothing. Reaching that mountain. That was the crux of your race. Your race was not won on August 31.
It was those lonely days in June. When; “It was not fun any more.”….
And you put on your shoes and went out anyway.