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Category: stoicism

Pain and Suffering in Ultra-Racing

Pain is guaranteed in life. There is no escaping the fact that something or someone will cause you pain. What is not guaranteed is suffering. Ultra-running, to me, is a long conversation with yourself about these two ideas. Are you in pain AND are you suffering?  The ability to first understand the purpose of pain, as a feedback mechanism to instruct us to listen to our body, is crucial. Children tend to listen only if there are repercussions for their actions, so the same goes for pain. Our body sends a pain signal because we are not listening. In ultra-racing, you need to learn how to listen to that signal, acknowledge it, and then move past it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when both pain and suffering collide, and that will cause a DNF. The majority of the time, we choose to suffer because the pain has crossed over a threshold that we decide we can no longer bear. We give in, we give up, and we drop out.

When you reach this point, there are a few critical items you can do to prevent going over the edge:

  1. Listen! It’s trying to tell you something, but if you choose to ignore it, there will be a breaking point.
  2. Take a break! There’s nothing to say you can’t back off the pace, sit in the shade, or just stop and collect your thoughts. Pain comes in waves, and most of the time, you can ride the wave to the next shore.
  3. Reason with it. You can talk with yourself to see if it’s really an issue if it’s really that bad and if you can make a deal just to wait and see if your fears are warranted. Nine out of ten times, it’s never as bad as you think.

This year, I plan to approach racing and life completely differently. I will stop getting in the way of things, stop trying to steer them, and let things play out. I have read many books on self-help, self-discovery, and self-improvement, and the underlying theme in all of them is awareness.  The present moment is always trying to tell you something, but we ignore it.  Far too often, we are on to the next thing, living in the past, or dreaming about the future.  Sitting in silence, with no task and nowhere to be, is life’s ultimate reward. Not what you have, what you have done, and what you will do. The odds of being born into you are 1 in 400,000,000,000,000. Think about that! You already won the lottery, now it’s time to just sit back and enjoy it. So, the next time you are “suffering” you have to ask, but am I really?  Sit with your pain, because it’s a gift trying to tell you what you are doing wrong, and if you listen, you will avoid suffering.

Would you like to live forever?

If you could take a pill to stop aging or extend your life by 200 years, would you?  Multiple stories about biohacking and anti-aging research are in the news.  It made me think that might be the most horrible thing to happen to a person or society.  People can barely save for retirement or an emergency fund, how would you even be able to afford a 100-year retirement?  Would anybody retire? 

Will your friends and family be able to afford the magic anti-aging pill or treatment?  Odds are they will not, which means SOME of your best and closes friends and family will die while you live on. What is the best age to lock in for eternity, 29, or maybe 39?

The fact that we have an expiration date means we HAVE to take risks NOW!  There’s a concept in management called Parkinson’s law, ”Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion”.  Basically, you would never be motivated to finish anything because you know there’s time.  No set end date for your life or tasks.  You could waste a year in bed watching TV, but would it matter?  Should the drug have productivity requirements?  Only those that contribute to society could take it.  So only “essential workers” would get it?  Do you want to just watch TV and play video games? Sorry kid! No soup for you!

It’s not the cure for aging we need, it’s the cure for fear.  The fear of embarrassment, fear of starting something new, fear of taking a risk, fear of pushing limits, and fear of getting uncomfortable or hurt.  We don’t need more excuses to put things on hold. Would you put everything off or would you take action? Just wait until next year, the weather is better, or you have more money. You would always be putting things off! What’s the rush!?!?  It’s like that quote from Jurrasic park, 

Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” 

Jurrasic Park

Think about when you lost someone close and how it forces you to re-evaluate your life. Death is a reminder, a wake-up call to those barely living to get moving! Will your actions right now be alive time or dead time? Every choice you make is a vote for the person you want to be. Cure for aging, no I’m good.  Cure for fear, sign me up!

A Runner’s Final Race

This is my view of what happens the second after a runner dies.  This post is inspired by the book “Sum: Tales from the Afterlives” which is 40 different ideas about what it’s like the instant after you die.

At that exact moment, you are transported to the start of a race.  The final race.  It will be the longest distance you have ever run.  You are positioned on the starting line.  You look back at the other runners and notice a lot of them look familiar.  The gun fires and the race is off, the race takes place through all the places you lived or visited.  It will see the sights you loved, the streets you grew up on, or maybe the playgrounds of your youth.  As you start to pass other runners you notice they are people that played a role in your life, teachers, friends, parents, and co-workers.  They run alongside you and talk about some of the best moments in your life, the moments you shared together.   

As you reach the final point of interest you turn a corner to see the finish line.  The familiar crowds shout your name as you approach.  They clap for you as you sprint toward the finish.  You hit stop on your watch, but notice there is no time displayed.  As you sit there exhausted, the people in your life cross one by one.  You talk to them about their race.  You discuss the highs, and lows and what you enjoyed about the course.  They say their final words and then walk away until the last person leaves.  You look around to see if finish times are posted, but they are not.  You notice a large board with your name and all the people you helped complete the race.  You sit down on the grass, by the side of the course, bathing in the sun as you enjoy final race memories and cherish your last race… 

If life is what you make it can’t death be the same?