Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Amazing bodies: perseverance and a little sadist all thrown together

A few years ago, when I was running consistently I heard about a little known race.  It was of the endurance while it was interesting, it wasn’t on my radar of races to train for.  However, it was something that I wanted to hear more about.  I tucked the name of the race in the back of my head and vowed to look into it first chance I got.  What is the name of the race?  The Barkley Marathon.  

It wasn’t until 2016 that I had the opportunity to really learn about the race.   Jason and I were looking for a movie to watch and saw this movie called “The Barkley Marathon: The race that eats its young”.  (Amazon affiliate link) My brain immediately regurgitated the information that ‘hey, this is the race I heard about a year or two ago!’  So we decided to watch it.    I was glued to the screen while we watched...totally intrigued....and the fascination has not gone away!  

In brief....this race is brutal!  The title of the documentary ‘the race that eats its young’ is well named.  It is the mastermind of a man named Laz who apparently  has a wicked sense of humor. (Come on now...entry is based on an essay and a $1.60 entry fee....if you are accepted you get a condolence letter, there is a bugler that plays taps...quite frequently, the race starts with a cigarette lighting, just to name a few quirks.).  The race is held in the mountains of Tennessee and was inspired by a prison escape.  Yes a prison escape. A prison is/was nestled in these rugged mountains in in the late 70’s an inmate escaped.   They caught him 55 hours later....he had made it all of 8 miles in those 55 hours....Laz began to mock the story and said ‘I could make it at least 100 miles’.  And the race was born.  To say that this race is brutal is an understatement.  This race has been held yearly since 1986 and to date there have only been 15 people to ever finish it...and only 18 times someone has completed it! (This discrepancy in the person finished it two years and another person finished it three times).  When someone does complete it, Laz makes the course more difficult.  What does the race entail?  5 loops of running/climbing/crawling and sliding your way through the rugged woods...with a 60 total time cut off. (No stopping the clock to sleep...if you sleep it eats into your 60 hours)  Each loop is between 20-30 miles....and the whole race requires just under 70,000 feet of climbing.  Oh did I mention that this course is have a map and a compass....and it’s mostly NOT on trails.  Brutal!

I watched that first documentary and I was hooked.  I knew the race was held in March or April, so I started looking for reports of the race .  We had a winner!  And a guy local to me!   I devoured the reports..and the winning runner’s blog.   And I actually got emotional when I heard about the guy who made a navigational mistake that cost him the last 10-30 minutes of the race....and he came in exactly SIX SECONDS after the time cut off. 

I watched again in March/April of 2018 and saw a few one was able to complete it.. not one person!  If I’m correct no one even made it to attempt a fourth loop!  Not even the guy that was 6 seconds late the previous year.  

And then the other week I noticed a new documentary that came out. Of course we watched it!   It is called “where Dreams Go To Die”.  It follows one runner as he makes multiple attempts to complete this brutal race. Once again, I was enthralled!

The intrigue in this race is very real and strong for me.   I can’t get enough of it....  My mind circles at the training, perseverance, dedication and fortitude to complete something like that. Ok,not even to complete even attempt it.  Most people are lucky to get one loop done.  It blows my mind!    I have no desire to complete it (although Jason said never say never!) but I just can’t atop contemplating and reading about it!  

I think the thing that gets me the most is the mindset.  What these people display is awe inspiring....and SHOULD  translate into my quest for healthy living....because what they are doing is exactly what I SHOULD be doing.. maybe just  in a slightly smaller and less extreme way.   These people have the uttermost determination. They prepare  for months and push through pain and hardship!  They sacrifice...time and comfort.  They lost sleep to finish workouts...they didn’t indulge in certain foods that were not beneficial to their goals.    They figure out how to make this work within a full schedule of work, life and family!  The finisher from 2017 did so with twin babies and a toddler at home...while working a full time job....he commuted to work every day on his own two feet ..more recently on a bicycle as he was training for an Ironman since his Barkley finish.  (as a side note...his shoe leather express commute is probably faster than my commute in a car in D.C. traffic!!).  The second documentary...he has a wife and young son...he makes it work also. 

So what excuses do I have?  My measley half hour workout in the morning is NOTHING compared to the hours these people spend training.  My aches and pain are nothing when I compare myself to the conditions that these people willingly put themselves through.   Being intrigued and immersed in something like the Barkley Marathons puts my excuses into perspective.  They are null and void!!!!