A few days ago a friend of mine shared this awful plight of his on social media. “After I run for over an hour, I am an emotional wreck. It doesn’t happen on short runs, just the long ones.”
I cannot imagine the distress and duress he is under after running an hour amongst the mountains of North Carolina. After all, I was one of those in high school who was always at baseball practice first. When the coach would come down to the field and everyone else had just started running their laps, there I was, sweat soaked in my practice clothes, water curling my hair (yes, I had lots of hair then) like a golden retriever’s coat after swimming 400 yards in search of downed duck. And then, at the perfect time (I calculated this many times in my head to make it work) I would finish running as I approached Coach and pronounce proudly and while trying to catch my breath, “Two miles!”
The coach would use me as an example as to how to get to practice early and be hyped about the session coming. Little did he know how much work and brain power was exerted to make that one lap that everyone saw me finishing was my only lap. I often tell people, the reason I played baseball as a kid was because I only had to run 90 feet at a time.
And here is my friend, someone I had grown up with, stating that he was an emotional wreck after running for longer than an hour. I mean, just how much endurance does a bear have in order to chase someone for over an hour? That would be the only reason I could think of to run for that long of a period of time.
But maybe there is more. I would assume there has to be.
We recently had a death in the family and my cousins and I discussed how this is the new way to have family reunions, since we do not really get together anymore like we used to. Catching up on what has been going on in our lives other than the hearsay from our parents was nice. Even sharing the memories from days in the past would bring smiles to our faces in the time of mourning.
Yet, in doing so, I realized that we are all still the same people. Different dreams, activities altered slightly in order to compensate for our family changes as we went from kids, to adults, to having our own households.
Two of my cousins, brothers, love the outdoors. Well all of us do, but this story in angling towards them, so bare with me. In our discussions, we began to talk about hiking and the mountains. At one point in my life, I would have said a hike should only be something used to get from one point to another. Very similar to climbing a mountain, I would say. There has to be a point other than just climbing a mountain, right?
My whole idea of climbing mountains changed while reading the book Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. I realized there was a purpose. It was the same, or maybe more, than the way I felt sitting in a deer stand even if nothing came out in range.
Linville Gorge did the same for me with hiking. It may not be the most beautiful place on earth, but if not, to me it is one of the most beautiful I have been able to see.
My cousins shared they have hiked most of the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. We were discussing the gorge when they shared that information. While it may see like just a hike, or actually many hikes over different parts of the trail, it is something more. Let me restate that. It IS something more.
There is the one on one with nature, and sometimes it is many on one with nature. A bond occurs. Not necessarily between people, but between one and nature. A bond between one and God. You realize you are something, and you realize you are nothing. The paradox continues. Is it you conquering nature or is it nature working in synch with you?
The work, effort, sweat, and even tears breaks you down and builds you up at the same time.
That is why people climb mountains. That is why people hike mile after mile on the world’s toughest terrain.
Running for hours on end though, it has to only be because something was chasing you. No wonder he was an emotional wreck.