As I have been digging in to ultra-running (I have not run an ultra-marathon yet) I have found a common thread in the ultra-runner’s logic. It’s something like finding your limits, both physical and mental, and then pushing past them, and by doing so, reaching unexplored territory within yourself. It’s not unique to running; you can see it in any sport. Watch any post-game NFL interview on Sunday and someone is bound to refer to the adversity their team has faced during the grueling 16 game season. I think, Really? You play a game and get paid millions. Adversity? I think there is something deeper going on here though, something that touches on the core of our being. I believe we were made to struggle, and, at times, to face down physical, mental, and spiritual challenges, win or lose.
Two hundred years ago, most of our distant relatives were born in to struggle. They had to find water, food, and shelter on a daily basis. Forget the rest of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, they were born at and lived most of thier lives at the bottom of the pyramid. Just living was a challenge, and that satisfied what I would call their sub-conscious hunger to “vigorously resist death.” As modern life emerged, we were increasingly not being born in to physical struggle. We had running water to quench our thirst, refrigerators to keep our food cold, TVs to keep our minds entertained, phones to keep us connected, and cars to get us where we wanted to go. Our daily lives were becoming easier and easier.
Fast forward to today and I believe it is no coincidence that we have the Tough Mudder and Spartan races, gyms where you flip tractor tires and work out with small boulders, and ultra-marathons where you run distances that would take most of a day to drive at highway speeds. I think these are all examples, among many others, of how we manufacture adversity to reconnect with that part of our core that longs to struggle to survive.
I believe we were designed to face challenges of all types, but when we don’t, when we are at times lulled into the ease of modern life, we lose something of our humanity and we stop growing. We need to fight. We need to wrestle with God. We need to strive to live like Christ. We need to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. This is how I would define vigorously resisting death in today’s world.
To use a well-worn phrase, my wife is in the “fight of her life” against lung cancer. She didn’t choose it, it chose her; and although it is an intensely personal fight, it’s my fight too. I’m a husband and a father and that puts me squarely in the middle of it. As I run, I am consciously connecting my physical effort with her physical fight against cancer.
Consider joining me in this fight too by donating and supporting my run on January 13th. I’m not going to flip tractor tires or run an obstacle course, I’m going to manufacture adversity by running 20+ miles through snow and ice for my wife!