“Some sprint to snatch the prize, My goal’s the far horizon”–Michael Franks. Probably because I am not fast, I love that line from a Michael Franks song – but I also like it because I think it is true about training. We have to be in it for something more, because sometimes training is like eating dirt.
Franks’ song reminds me of a Tagore poem in which the poet describes people coming home burdened with goods, whereas he has left his belongings behind him and is hunting for the golden stag: “I run across hills and dales, I wander through nameless lands, because I am hunting for the golden stag.” The poem is similar to the song because both have to do with being called to what begins as being out of sight and elusive.
I began running far distances in high school, in order to escape from the confinements of boarding school life. It was still, if barely, the 80’s and there were no nifty hydration packs for amateur runners. That meant I went with no water and ran as far as I could, then would make my way back by focusing on reaching the furthest telegraph post I could put in my vision. After chasing telegraph post after telegraph post, I would finally return, having found as much of the golden stag that I could for one day.
Only by running longer distances do I feel that I begin to put whatever ails me into perspective. I love how on most runs I begin in the middle of the city and at one point find myself across the river from it, and it has shrunk smaller than Lego pieces. As I run on, the city just disappears, altogether. By running, I am literally putting distance, powered by my own legs, between me and whatever is troubling me. I wouldn’t zealously say that running solves all problems: part of the “problem” is that the run needs to be practiced most days anew precisely because some problems are too elusive. In fact, I feel like I am still working things out: some of life’s larger questions seem to require much larger increments of distance and time to be viewed, but at least I am “on my way”. Having to renew the task almost daily is not defeating, it kind of makes sense. Each day is new, so it’s understandable that each day, the problems require new responses. Running might not dull the pain, but it gives a possible answer to it, every day
“You may smile, my friends, but I pursue the vision that eludes me.”– Tagore, “Golden Stag”
The equipment we bring on as we take on more and more miles comes to seem like a more and more coveted medal, commemorating our pursuit of the horizon. My first medal was “earning” my first handheld from Orange Mud early this year. I write “earning” because I had successfully put in the mileage to actually need one. At first, it only held water. But now, as I learn to reach farther horizons on less, it sometimes holds electrolytes and nutrition in its pocket.
Guest post by GG, from Serbia. Thanks Greta!