Now we understand why the question was continually asked of us when we recently visited the US, “Have you read Born to Run?”. Until now, the answer was, “No”.
I typically avoid such books. I don’t read any How to Do anything, avoid “Self Help” as if it were death and entirely ignore any outdoor publications. Why? 1) I don’t want to be influenced by segments of the very media I work within. And 2) A lack of soul from some of these same segments. If I am going to read something it’s going to be either a good book or some favorite blog of someone speaking from the heart. Born to Run was like both.
For me, the book spoke to my own soul by clarifying what I have been processing for many years. What do endurance sports offer than just the sports themselves? Age has introduced me to some small tidbits of wisdom, thinking about these tidbits has given me some clarity, and practicing this clarity has brought me much happiness.
I don’t want to analyze the book or quote much, if this is something you’re interested in and you haven’t already read it, just go get a copy. But, I do want to bring up something as it pertains to endurance mountain sports. It is this idea of training your soul as much as your body.
At some point in the last years my outlook on sport evolved. The idea of “sport” changed to “my life”. I get up in the morning and I go do what I do in the mountains, be it trail running, skiing, climbing or cycling. It finally struck me that this is what I had been striving for. I wanted my life, my work and my passions to all be one and the same. To live my vision of the life I chose to pursue. Amongst all this time, about 15 years, I went to the mountains 300+ days a year, and I worked hard both physically and mentally. What it has given me is an understanding of myself, how I relate to others, and a happiness within both. Born to Run speaks to this. We were meant to run, or, we were meant to push ourselves both physically and mentally, thanks to the fact that we can push ourselves.
For some people, “sport” is an art form, and mountain sports are superb for this. Through sport you express yourself. It brings out the best and the worst in you. Compete and learn even more about who you are. Pay attention and learn some things. As you practice, it becomes apparent that what you are really doing is being creative with living. When I was a fulltime rock climber in the early 90’s I read a quote by the famous Italian climber Manolo, “Climbing is the Art of Movement”. From that moment on I looked at climbing as an art form that I wanted to learn so as to be able to express my own balanced movement. It changed how I climbed and has forever influenced me in my thinking. Identify your passion and then pursue and dedicate yourself to it as an artistic expression of your being. What greater medium can there be than your very own mind and body, their health and strength? The rewards are infinite.
Endurance sports are not going to provide the answer to the Meaning of Life, but maybe they will help us, as individuals, answer some of our own questions as to the Meaning of our own Life.
Scott Jurek and Ann Trason at the Western States 100 Mile Race
In 2002 I photographed my first Ultra Marathon, The Western States 100. What I saw was as influential as the line from Manolo. I saw what was possible by those pushing beyond supposed limits. I decided I had to experience the same things to learn something about myself.
The first location from where I had to shoot was at about mile 50. I knew Scott Jurek was leading the race and was well off the front. Having never seen a 100 mile race, I suspected the runners would slowly hobble through at only the halfway point of 100 miles and 100 degree heat. With my camera set up and ready to shoot on a long straight stretch, we waited. Finally, our spotter whistled, Scott was coming. I looked through the viewfinder and got ready to focus and fire. But when Scott came into site I quickly realized, this was something special. He was flying. Having just gone through an aid station he was eating and emitting grunts as he forced the food down. I doubt he knew we were there, we were like voyeurs into his private world. The passionate lover of human potential took over in me, instead of making photos I looked up and began screaming for him. Thankfully I managed a few shots and this one, because it is so very real, is my favorite.
The legend Ann Trason, La Bruja, in Born to Run. All of the same feelings and emotions I had for Scott were repeated when, not far behind, Ann came through. These are perhaps the greatest ultrarunners ever.