Last week, I was invited by the local Rotary Club to give a lunchtime presentation on ultramarathon running and the different ways one can balance a challenging full-time job, a growing family, and long-distance running in an increasingly complex world that places demands on all of us that are at once physically overwhelming and emotionally taxing. It was a fun presentation to prepare and an even more enjoyable one to present.
Toward the end of the question-and-answer session while dessert and coffee were settling in and the main portion of the meeting was over, a bold voice from the back of the room asked, “What do the voices in your head say to the voices in your heart?”
For a moment, I was stumped. Certainly, I knew where he was coming from as I have often faced the daunting challenge of conflicting voices fighting for airtime in the heat of the moment in an ultra. But, most of the time I have been able to shut those voices up by putting my head down and simply getting the job done. To be honest, I had never really thought about what to do with the conflicting voices. But, the guy had a point, what do those voices say to each other?”
I won’t even attempt to answer that question here. However, what I will do is acknowledge the presence of the interminable battle between the Head and the Heart that is so much a part of the runner’s experience. While it is easy to say that we “don’t think about anything” when we run or we simply “block out the pain” the honest truth is, at least those of us who’ve been doing this for awhile, we are always doing battle between the Head and the Heart.
How much should we train? How good do we feel? Is this the time to go for it? What if I blow up? If I eat this now will I regret it later? Why bother?
The questions, quite literally, are endless. And, in fact, it’s not so much a matter of how we answer those questions, rather it’s a matter of how willing we are to ask. Because ultimately, whether we admit it or not, running long distances forces us to come face to face with our own mortality. Running makes us accept our limitations while striving to exceed our boundaries. Running enables us to seek paths going places we didn’t know we needed to go. And, finally, running allows us to be the people we are meant to be in spite of the conflict between the voices in our heads and the voices in our hearts.
And that is why running is truly transcendent. What other daily activity, arrived at so peacefully and purposefully, connects us so seamlessly to the true essence of who we are meant to be?
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s transcendent Beer of the Week comes from Stone Brewing. I had a couple pints of their “Enjoy By 5/17/13 DIPA” the other night at a local watering hole and I must admit, it was amazing! You have a little more than two weeks to get your hands on this brew. Go for it!
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Where do your head and heart most often conflict on a day to day basis?
- Do your head and heart ever conflict on race day? If so, how?