Exorcising the Demons

 

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A section of the Pony Express course near Simpson Springs.

This is a story about music, podcasts, radio, and anything to drown out the constant commentary in my own head and how I came to love and even need to be alone with my thoughts without distraction. When I first began running I discovered that having something to listen to made the miles and time go by much easier. I bought a very fancy 128MB MP3 player that would hold plenty of music and I could even listen to the radio. I loved that thing so much! In 2006, my wife Jennifer decided to run the St. George Marathon with me on next to zero training. She had seen me run two marathons with very little training and was under the impression that it wouldn’t be that hard. I tried to talk her out of it but at the same time I really wanted her to keep me company and give it a go. She was determined and I promised that I would stick with her and go at her pace. As the miles slowly crept by and we crested Veyo hill Jennifer was getting very fatigued.  Three hours had passed and as we got to the halfway point she decided that her race was finished and she would ride in a van with the others that had decided to stop and meet me at the finish. She was devastated but at the same time relieved that her race was over. She was tired, heck, I was tired too! I said “I love you and will see you soon,” took out my trusty MP3 player, and set off running. It was already a long day and I still had 13 miles to go and I had been out for over 3 hrs! I rocked out to my music for approximately 5 minutes before the batteries died. Somehow I had not put in fresh batteries or the sweat from my pocket had infiltrated the machine or who knows what. What I do know is that I had hours and miles to go and no music to take away my thoughts and the constant noise of my feet hitting the ground…thud thud..thud thud….thud thud…I was so unprepared for the silence and felt like I might go crazy with boredom. I gave my headphones to a lady that needed them since they were of no use to me. I finished in 5hr57min and was so emotional upon seeing Jennifer at the end that I wept as we hugged. She looked so beautiful and I was so proud of the effort she put in. That day was hard for her as well and she is committed to getting back there and finishing what she started. This time she will be trained and know what she is getting herself into. I will be by her side every step of the way. I learned that day to invest in an ipod and got one very shortly after that. All of my races from that time until about two years ago were spent listening to: Erasure, Depeche Mode, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Simple Minds, Thompson Twins, Nirvana, Braveheart Soundtrack, Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack, Glory Soundtrack, etc…Podcasts: This American Life and anything by Scott Sigler and Jeremy Robinson. Something happened two years ago and I’m not sure how or why,  but I grew to enjoy the silence. Sorry for the Depeche Mode quote, but it’s apt. Jennifer pointed out what she thinks happened. My body and mind were weak when I started running and so I needed something to distract myself from the pain and fatigue of running long distance. The music provided the escape that I needed at the time. As the years passed and I learned to love running and actually train, my body got stronger and so did my mind. I no longer needed an escape from the pain and fatigue. I have embraced it insomuch that I crave the long miles, even going so far as running up to 100 miles multiple times. Once I took away the distraction of headphones in my ears, I began to think more clearly and have intense internal discourses with myself. I have found that running for hours and hours by myself gives me a chance to exorcise myself of my demons, my doubts, anger, unkind feelings and weakness. In turn, I am able to embrace the joy of being healthy and active, think about those I love and how grateful I am to have such an amazing life, enjoy this spectacular and beautiful Earth I live on, and have really long meaningful prayers with my Father in Heaven. Sometimes I don’t know where my thoughts will take me and what the outcome may be. Just like entering this dark tunnel and hoping there is light at the end, my thoughts at times seem oppressive and heavy and in the end after much thought become light and well traveled and there is a solution to be had.

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The Supai Tunnel along the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon.

 

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to run the R2R2R with some good friends. Jennifer helped me so much in getting prepared with what I would fuel with during the run. I was kind of a jerk just before leaving for the Grand Canyon and I didn’t show her the appreciation she deserved. Halfway through the run while having breakfast at the South Rim I called her to let her know where I was and that I was OK. She quickly expressed how I had behaved and how sad she was that I didn’t appreciate her or her efforts. She also was upset because her dad had been a river guide on the Colorado River and had always promised to take her. He didn’t make good on the promise and here I was in the place she dearly wanted to go and couldn’t. I began to understand how thoughtless and selfish I had been. After the phone call and breakfast and descending the switch backs from the South Rim I decided I needed alone time to think and reflect upon my life and those in it. I left my friends to go on ahead. I would end up spending the next 8 hrs by myself with plenty of time to think. I am so grateful for the hours in such a ruggedly beautiful environment to figure things out. When I got home the next day we did work things out and I am much more cognizant of my amazing wife and this journey we are on together.

This is what I love about running: hearing the birds chirp, the wind in the trees, the river rushing through the wilds, talking to those I encounter along the way, and being able to hear myself think. There will always be demons in my life to destroy and thankfully I have the tools to help me succeed. Running gives me the chance to exercise my mind and body and exorcise the demons within.

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