Monday, June 10, 2013

Even Silver Fades


It had been a year since the race, and I had not looked once at my sterling silver Old Dominion buckle. For nearly 355 days it sat on a desk in my old bedroom next to my other 100 mile buckles, dozens of race medals, and a plethora of old race bibs. For the first time ever I decided I was going to wear one of my 100 mile buckles. I figured volunteering at the very race I earned it at was a fitting venue, and also a nice way to motivate several friends who hoped to attain the very item I proudly wore. Oddly enough, one of the first things I noticed about the buckle was that it had started to turn a dark color, oxydated by time and neglect. In less than a year it had lost the bright sparkly gloss it had when it was awarded to me by the race director after the 2012 event. Like all things, even silver fades.

The interesting thing is that there are seasoned veterans who have amassed hundreds of buckles, medals, age group awards, overall awards, and whatever else you could ever think of obtaining from years of running. However, most of these items get stowed away in closets and drawers, and in the best case scenario get neatly displayed behind a piece of glass, or on a shelf. Even there these small hallowed symbols of a our personal endeavors get covered in dust and begin to fade with the passing years. Sometimes my running awards remind me of toys from my childhood. Things that at the moment seemed of the greatest importance, but as I grew into adulthood they became merely objects filling empty spaces in a house. My once best friend, Mr. Teddy Bear, is now a disheveled centerpiece amongst the Transformer toys, Lego cities of ruin, and old rusted Matchbox cars. Even my baseball and tae kwon do trophies have been befriended by cobwebs and have become more artifact than fact. Will these medals and buckles become memories of more valiant days, or will they linger on? Sometimes on a quiet day I can glance at the awards and still hear the cheer of the crowds, the voices of friends, and the smell the forest and earth in my clothes. Sometimes.

As I sit here writing I am contemplating how running always seemed to be the perfect metaphor for life. Somehow, maybe I grew up even furthur beyond my own naive ideologies as a novice runner. Maybe, I realized that running is not a metaphor for anything but running itself. I mean, I am three weeks away from being jobless, regardless of nearly 10 weeks of searching. I am about to move back in with my parents as a last resort because my current roomate decided it was time to sell our apartment, which he owns. I am about to be a jobless 32 year old who lives with his parents. While I am not wallowing in self pity over the circumstance, the fact that I have completed a race with over 103 miles of rocky mountain trails does not change anything about how my life has played out. Yes, it made for some good self discovery, I got a neat looking buckle, but would my world really look any different if I had never run the race?

I think back to before I ran ultras. Before 2004, I was 100% capable of being happy and healthy without ultramarathons, or even the sport of running for that matter. Ignorance was bliss. There was no frustration over PR's, finish times, bucket list races I can't afford, or why Western States and Boston are so freaking hard to get into. My life without running was just as good. Running, however, has brought about a unique part of my being that I believe no other activity could have done. And as for ultras. I think they helped me tap into a more primal state of being, and one that apparently does not coexist well with this modern pop culture society. Are the medals and buckles a biproduct of this introspective conquest, or are they just a fancy candy coated glitter for a simple hobby? I guess that's all up to the person who owns them, but for me I think of each buckle and medal as a chapter. Each one with a story behind it and a trail of life events that shaped and molded the version of me that succeeded, or didn't succeed at claiming the prize. Funny, while running certainly was a great coping and celebratory mechanism for a myriad of things, the lone act itself never really did anything to enhance the situation. When life gets tough, your buckles aren't going to make things better, and perhaps that's the wisest perspective you can have. Just because you have overcome blisters, self doubt, sleep deprivation, nausea, cramps, and whatever else you'd encounter in a race doesn't mean it will make you handle life's other curve balls any better. You will not miraculously be better at dealing with stress at work, a failing marriage, or terminally ill loved ones because you ran, or can run 100 miles.

There will be a day we will all be old and gray. Will it matter then that we have silver 100 mile buckles? Will it matter when we are all dead in 100 years? How about when the sun goes nova in 4 billion years and swallows the earth? Does a single 24 hour period of time really matter all that much in lieu of the expanse and eternity of our universe. I think it does because while we exist but on a mere dot on the timeline of forever, that dot is our entire world of existence. The dot defines 100% of what we are, and who we are. 24 hours is nothing, but it reflects a measure of a man, or woman that lasts forever. It's an everlasting thumbprint, or gobstopper of flavor to a flavorless place. Yes, I just randomly referenced an everlasting gobstopper. As Maximus said in the movie Gladiator "What we do in life, echoes in eternity". It will echoe long after gold turns to dust and silver fades to ash.

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