Thoughts on Running 50 Miles
“We are jabbering onions, just waiting for someone to find us, peel us, and still choose to love us.”
I wrote these words in a poem a few weeks ago. The poem is, very simply, about how fucking cool it is to be alive, to wake up every day with consciousness, to have self-awareness and the capacity for higher thought.
“God, I love being human” it begins, and later continues, “we’re so lovingly lost // calculating the cost of our lives on tiny machines // spending our days planning our deaths // running into doors that aren’t open yet so we can get to the top of a trash heap // discover both sides of the story // finally see the greenness of grass was never the point.”
The search for something better is a tale as old as time. We think that once we have enough money, or a house full of stuff, or have accomplished enough, we will be happy. It takes doing all of this and then some to realize that money, stuff, and accomplishments do not equal happiness. We all work hard to achieve some degree of comfort and ease before realizing that comfort and ease are entirely unfulfilling. The reason I like to run long distances is because it is extremely challenging. I like to feel uncomfortable so I can appreciate real comfort. I like to prove to myself that I can do something hard, because doing one hard thing makes it easier to do more hard things. Shying away from difficulty will get nobody anywhere fast.
I ran 50 miles last weekend in a tiny race in the Santa Ana mountains in Orange County, CA. I didn’t do much to prepare, eat a special meal, or wear my lucky socks. I actually had very low expectations, and began the race feeling light and carefree. The last time I ran 50 miles, I started too fast and didn’t eat or drink enough, causing an enormous bonk too early. So this time, I paced myself better, ate and drank more, and didn’t start feeling too terrible until ~37 miles in.
Around mile 42, I was power hiking up a steep incline when I began repeating my mantra to myself, You are strong, you are capable, nothing can bring you down. Normally, I just think my mantra, but I was alone, the sun beating down on me, and I decided to say it aloud.
As soon as I said, “I am strong”
I broke down in tears.
After I beat, I said, “I am capable”
and choked up once again.
“Nothing can bring me down,”
I finished, feeling an odd mixture of relief and sadness and joy.
“I am strong. I am capable. Nothing can bring me down,” I repeated to myself, over and over as I ran the next ~9 miles alone, struggling to eat, forcing myself to drink, and reminding myself that I can, in fact, do hard things.
Sometimes, we are overcome with emotion when we give voice to the things that frighten, disarm, or awe us. I was overcome with raw, terrifying emotion the first time I admitted out loud, “I have an eating disorder.” I knew in my heart that it was true, but I was afraid to admit my perceived flaws, afraid to give a name to the brokenness I kept hidden and secret and close to my chest for over a decade.
The reason I cried when I said, “I am strong, I am capable,” is because I know that it’s true. Resiliency is a testament to the human condition. We can be broken and beaten and lied to and cheated a million times, but still get up and continue. We can fail more times than anyone can count. We can sink to the bottom of a mental disorder and claw our way out, because life is worth living and the parts worth remembering were born out of struggle.
Mantras can change the way we perceive ourselves. If you hear something enough times, you’ll begin to believe it, which is why it’s important to feed your psyche positive things. If you tell yourself you are worthless, or broken, or incapable, you will believe it and then, you will be.
If you believe you are strong, resilient, and capable beyond measure-if you remind yourself of this as often and as kindly as you can-you will be.
“We are jabbering onions, waiting for someone to find us, peel us, and still choose to love us.” These words are only half-true. Often, the person we’re waiting to find is ourselves. What we really want is to know ourselves to the very core and hold ourselves with love and grace. Sometimes people ask me if I ever get bored when I run. The answer is always, and will forever be, no, because I’m busy peeling away my own onion. Learning new things about myself and loving those things. Witnessing other runners do the same thing, whether or not they can name it.
If you came to this post for a technical breakdown of my race, I use THIS Orange Mud hydration pack. I wore THESE shorts and THESE Altra shoes. I consumed dates, roasted potatoes, NUUN, and these only slightly gross Cliff Blocks. Afterwards, I recovered with soup, lots of water, and THIS hemp cream for my aching muscles. Someone sponsor me (I’m only half joking).