Until the Shoes Fall Off

The thoughts of an ultrarunner in advancing years, inspired by an extract from the HBO skating documentary ,  “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off.”

By on November 22, 2023 | Comments

[Editor’s Note: This essay was written by iRunFar reader, Hank Dart.]

“I see all of the arguments against it … but I wish I could relate the intangibles to you.”  — Rodney Mullen

In one of the final scenes of the HBO documentary about the skateboarding icon ,  “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off,”  Rodney Mullen, a legendary skater himself and inventor of the flat ground ollie, kickflip, and heelflip, shares his insight on why aging skateboarders keep skating hard, even in the face of compounding injury.

It’s in direct response to a scene just previous with Stacy Peralta, founder of the Bones Brigade, a groundbreaking team that included in addition to Tony Hawk and Mullen, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, and others.

In that scene, Peralta responds to a heavy fall that a 50-plus-year-old Hawk had taken. He wonders aloud why he still does it and why there hasn’t been an intervention to stop him from continuing to put himself in danger.

Mullen is philosophical about what drives Hawk, and him, and other aging skaters.

Though I am not one iota the athletes they are, what he says could not resonate with me more.

I am aging. I am passionate about a sport  —  ultrarunning  —  that at its core is not the healthiest of pursuits, and that many people will never truly understand the draw of, because that draw is so intangible.

Someday, that is much sooner for me than it is later, there will be a time when I am unable to do it in any semblance of how I used to. At some point — tomorrow, next week, within the next two decades  —  I may not be able to do it all. That’s just the reality of time.

Hank Dart - Run Club 2023

The author (front right) on a group run with friends in Idaho. Photo: Hank Dart

I’m not prone to synesthesia, but I can feel Mullen’s words in my chest when I watch this video — as if it’s resonating with something elemental inside me, tapping into the drive he describes. Passionate yet measured and honest words about our passions, and the destructions those can bring, along with the triumphs. Even when it all seems madness, we know the reasons that drive us, we know the costs  —  and the benefits  —  and we know, simply, that we did what we could when we could.

And we will continue to, for a time at least.

I am under no illusion that what I do is heroic, or world class, or as inherently dangerous as what Hawk and Mullen do. Yet in my very ordinary life as an aging and slowing ultrarunner, I see perhaps in Mullen’s words, a dash of the extraordinary that helps drive me  —  and will, I hope, until the shoes fall off.

“And when I’m done … with this … that will be what it is. And I’ll find a way. But there’s something inside of me propelling. That I’m not going to give up until the wheels fall off.” — Rodney Mullen

Call for Comments

  • Did the above resonate with you as a runner?
  • Do you hope to keep pursuing the sport into advancing years?
Guest Writer
Guest Writer is a contributor to iRunFar.com.