I think I’ve posted something like this here before and if I have, just bear with me because it’s worth mentioning again.
Whenever people engage me in idle conversation about my running and the ability/need to undertake what from the outside seems to be the either foolish or unachievable I am normally lost for a reason or justification. The normal random chit chat will spill out of me and I admit to being a bit mindful of not scaring them with some sort of rubbish about the near religious experience that a very long and tough race can bring to you.
I do know why I do it and the title of the post provides you with some sort of a clue.
Up until my late 20’s I would say that your ability to live in the now with neither fear nor thought about the future in any meaningful way was innate. The potential for life becoming anymore complicated than a series of random adventures and enterprises strung together throughout the years seemed alien. Whether it was childhood games or adventures with beer and ladies it was pretty much the same script. Get in. Enjoy it. Move on.
Then, as life rolls on and your job/wife/life become more prominent on the landscape of your life, the ability to exist for instantaneous pleasure also becomes more remote. I would reckon that this must be a genetic trick so that we don’t all go off base jumping once the kids come along. In other words, it’s useful to lose the ability to exist in the now as you need to be able to model the future for the benefit of your children.
But that can leads to the complexity of life invading the spaced that used to be for play. This can take place on a real and abstract level (i.e. your physical and mental spaces).
And here comes the running.
I started the running thing (and before that swimming) as a way of taking control over my body and used the exercise and the fitness to demonstrate my ability to control my physical appearance. This leads to the inevitable skirting of the shores of a few dangerous islands where quasi-eating disorders and permanent damage live. If you can avoid scuppering your ship on the rocks of these island then running is a very simple and cheap way to reclaim some of the control you had in your (hopefully misspent) youth.
I toiled along at this for a good few year and chased PBs (all very personal as the times were no great shakes) and the latest fads for food and equipment. All the stuff that makes up the mechanics of the sport and undertaking.
As an aside, if you think about it, this applies to any activity from golf to cycling.
But the one thing none of this could bring me was the childhood feeling of the now. The ongoing moment. The instant. No past and no future.
Until I undertook the dafter and dafter events. The long, the mountainous, the slow, the cold. They gave me the ability to experience life as a single moment in time. Not mile 5 or 25, just the very precise moment of being alive.
Like a family holiday the planning for the event and even the event itself can be tortuous and painful but the residual experience of seeing the world like you haven’t seen it in decades makes it worthwhile.
Before memory loss will eventually bring this instantaneous living back to me I will content myself with balancing my ability (injured body) with my ambition (the now).