I am so sorry that I cannot answer them all. The runners who are finishing the RAT get an e-mail to give them their link to enter the BAT, and to ask if they want a buckle, or a medal (save those in Europe and Asia/Pacific who get a buckle).
So many of them write, to tell me what this event has meant to them. It is impossible to answer them all, but I read every one. And they make my heart sing. One after another, they are the stories of people who entered this race for a variety of reasons. Some because they knew this was an amount of distance they would cover in four months anyway. Others because it presented a challenge to do more than they had ever tried before. A few, because they wanted a buckle or a medal. A goodly portion entered just because their friends had entered…
What they discovered was a race that was both easier and more difficult than they expected. And they discovered they had greatness in themselves that they did not know was there.
Covering distance was the easy part. We are built to cover distance. Sure, for those not used to it there were some aches and pains during the breaking in period. But we adapt quickly. And if there is anything we humans are good at, it is covering pure distance.
The hard part is becoming a runner. Not just a person who runs, but a runner. (No disrespect to those who walk, because it is the same thing, only slower). Somehow, they had to stick with it through the transition from thinking; “Will I run today?” to thinking; “When will I run today?” The race is inextricably intertwined with life. Family issues… “When will I run today?” Work issues…”When will I run today?” Don’t feel good… “When will I run today?” This is not like blocking out a day or a weekend, and tolerating the discomfort long enough to finish. This is taking your life and injecting a race into it with no end in sight.
As a race director, I think the job is not about providing trinkets and baubles. It is about providing a venue for your runners to find the greatness in themselves. You cannot force greatness on them, nor lure them into it. Every one of us has greatness inside. But, we have to call on it to discover it. When the race begins, the runner is the one who encounters the obstacles. They are the ones who must reach inside, for something they never knew was there.
And the obstacles in the RAT are many and insidious. The tedium of finding the time to go out, day after day and week after week… hell, month after month. Creating the challenge for yourself. How easy is it to decide that the RAT is easily achievable, and cruise home. This is not the path chosen by most of the RATS. They catch one buzzard… and then fix their hungry eyes on the next. People who started out wondering if they could finish the 1000 Km are chasing 1000 miles. People now, who are finishing the RAT in over half the time are setting out to try and run negative splits on their summer and capture the BAT.
After these 50 something years, it would be easy for running to get old. But seeing it thru the eyes of so many people who are discovering the greatness in themselves makes it fresh and new every day. Down to the last person, catching the last buzzard, on the last day, the excitement never fades. It is you people who are inspiring me.
Someone remarked about the buckles; ” If everyone gets a buckle, then it is no longer special.” But that is not true at all. No buckle is special by itself. These buckles we have are just pieces of fancy metal. The magic in them is put there by the runners, For those who have reached deep inside to get them, those buckles will always be special.