I recently attended a screening of Unbreakable at a local, high school running camp. This is the first time I have watched the movie all the way through since shortly after it came out nearly two years ago. The timing of this was interesting in a couple of ways. Most obvious is the fact that, as I write this column, the 2013 edition of Western States is just three days away. By the time this article goes public, the dust will have settled and almost certainly another chapter will be added to the event’s legacy.
It’s been fun these past several days to think about what the details of this chapter might be. Will the fast, shorter-distance guys be able to hold on for 100 miles? (Unlikely, but certainly possible.) Will one of the many speedy veterans of recent WS races prevail, like Olson, Clark, Bowman, Sharman, Mackey, or another? Or is it possible for Mike Morton, who hasn’t run Western States in what feels like 100 years, to create one of the greatest story lines the race has ever known? How about the Speedgoat? Is it possible he’s actually a whole lot faster than we think? (I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Karl finish top five, and maybe even the podium.) On the women’s side, with Ellie out, you have likely an even-more-wide-open race. Almost certainly there is going to be a first-time winner in the women’s race. I’m excited to see who it will be.
Of course, by the time you all read this, these questions will have been answered so you might ask why I didn’t wait and write this column after the big race instead of now, when all I can do is speculate? The answer to this is a great way to introduce the other thing which came up for me when I watched Unbreakable the other day: I’m getting married on Sunday! Although I enjoy writing iRunFar articles, I’m thinking I might rather devote my free time in the next week to my amazing wife-to-be, and to my 100-plus guests (including nearly 50 from out of town) who are going to be gathered in Juneau for our big day. You might still be asking how this all ties into my other reaction from watching Unbreakable?
As I watched the movie, I noted how many people appear in it who have since become close friends of mine. In 2010, I was still relatively new to the ultrarunning culture. Certainly, I had some close friends who ran a lot, but just a small handful, not the dozens that I have now. As I was watching the film, I realized that there are no fewer than nine people (including Corle and I) featured in the film who are going to be at our wedding this weekend! Four or five of them I met for the first time at Western States in 2010. Thinking more about this last night made me really appreciate just how many good people I have met in this sport.
I’ve often wondered whether runners tend to be better people on average than non-runners, because it does sometimes seem this way. The truth is, though, I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Instead, I think that all people are inherently good people, but running does a huge part to help people to be closer to this reality. People who have a daily practice like running tend to be healthier, more grounded, and happier. It’s not that better people are attracted to running, it’s that running generally does a really good job of nurturing the goodness in people.
As I outlined above, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of amazing story lines that are going to come out of Western States this weekend. By the time this article is published, we will all know what many of these story lines are. In reality, though, the biggest story line of all might just be the subtle but powerful connections that are made out there on race weekend. After watching Unbreakable the other day, I realized that for me, the most powerful and most lasting thing I took away from that particular weekend three years ago wasn’t a cougar trophy, or a then course record, or the thrill of the competition, but rather the bonds I made with so many great people who were out there sharing some part of that experience with me. I know that you at Western States this year, and other upcoming races, will also be so lucky. We are good people.