Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Trail Therapy - and Being in a Hole

I realize I haven't blogged in a while.  There has been a combined overwhelming amount of activity with the Ten Junk Miles podcast, Flatlanders, races and personal issues (health friends and family).  I hope to write more in 2016.  Once in a while someone gets something out of it. It always helps me.

A lot of us in the trail and ultra world, myself included, are a little bit broken.  We were abused or neglected, had drinking, eating, sex, money or gambling problems.  Some of us are running away from things and others are running to things.  It's different for everyone.  One thing many of us do share is using trails and/or running as therapy.

I found running when I was finally sorting out all of the hard times I had been through.  Sometimes when I run I think about my childhood and how extremely unfair it was to experiences the horrors I have been through.  Other times I think my addictions and recovery.  I've thought about the death of my friend Alfredo.  Sometimes I just worry about others.  (Although, to be fair, I do think about jokes from time to time too).

When you are running away from horrors you can forget them on the trail.  Running a marathon, or a 20, 50 or 100 miler sometimes gives you clarity and singularity of focus.  The bills, the kids, the boss, your "baggage" no longer matters.  And when you cross that finish line and they give you the 100 mile buckle you can feel, in a real sense, validated and good enough.  It doesn't matter so much that you've been a shitty friend, husband, co-worker or human being from time to time because, well, were working on achieving this piece of awesome!  No pain no gain.  You can't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.  You can forgive yourself.  Others forgive you.  It's all good.

Sometimes we don't know what to do when trail therapy doesn't work.  You see, I have thought about the fact that I might not be the best husband, worker, friend, etc. but that it's understandable based on my circumstances.  I mean, I'm training for X.  It makes me forgive myself for the shortcomings that, between you and me, would normally keep me up at night.

The problem is that when (like now) the running isn't working, it only emphasizes the fact that I fall somewhat short in every other category.  When running is your therapy and your medicine and it stops working, you can get a little lost.  Everything seems ten times worse because you can't feel better by just going for a run.  In fact, the struggle of the run makes it all feel much worse.  And now, "I can't even do this right?"

I think some of the answer lies in removing the results from the calculus and enjoying the run, the friendships and the experience over the result as a way to "get over."  If there's one thing running has given me, its unimaginably good friends that share an intimacy like very few other groups.  To be with another runner, in the woods, sharing my problem makes me feel not so alone.  And as we say in one of my 12 step groups, "You're only as sick as your secrets."

I recently related the story of the guy who fell in the hole to a couple people.  It goes like this:

This guy is walking down the street and he falls in a hole.  The walls are so steep he can't get out.  A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up "Hey, you, can you help me out?"  The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on.  Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down here in this hole.  Can you help me out?  The priest writes a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a friend walks by.  The guy yells "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?"  And then the friend jumps in the hole.  Our guy says, "Are you nuts? Now we're both down here."  The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before - and I know the way out."

Bottom line - running fast, running far and running in amazing places can and will help you through almost anything, but nothing beats being able to spill your guts to someone when they don't have time to judge you because they don't want to trip on a root.  Reach out.  We've all been in the hole at some point or another.

And keep running.