We have one week to go in May, and for those of you who are pursuing a goal that will take all four months to reach, the journey has truly begun.
I felt it yesterday. That special feeling that comes on a long journey run, when you are well and truly “into it”.
You have been thru the excitement of the start. You have been thru the interminable time it takes to *finally* get away from the shadow of said start… that interminable stretch where you never thought you would get out of Memphis. You have seen the start finally recede into the background….
And when you turn to look out ahead, the finish is waaaay too far away to think about. This is the meat of the journey run. Because now it is time to put that finish line far into the back of your mind, and focus only on today. The finish line only matters in that today you do enough to keep it in reach.
The last 3 weeks plus have been, if you managed them right, a chance to break your body in. To remake yourself from a creature of the couch into a machine of the open road.
Some of you have gone too hard. Your machine is stressed and nursing many small injuries. You need to measure the distance you have left and find a way to take it easy on your equipment. Maybe some short days. Maybe some days of easy walking.
Some of you have not really built any discipline, with many days off, that can all too easily begin to morph into too many days off, and your goal will simply slip away. You need to measure what you have to do, and tighten up on yourself. You have to be honest with yourself, because what anyone else thinks will not matter. Whether you can justify your decisions or not will not take you to your goal. Only a fixed and purposeful effort is going to get you to the finish.
And for those who have found the sweet spot, you are ready to add a weapon to your arsenal. The primary weapon of every successful journey runner… your forever gear. I thought about it yesterday. when I went out. When I walked out of the woods at the bottom of the driveway, invisible hands dropped a hot, wet, woolen cloak over me. It was the first hot day of the summer, and had arrived with no preparation. I knew it would be a hard day, because acclimating to heat is not easy. I wasn’t beat up. But neither was I fresh. I have been increasing my mileage and it shows. But, I just dropped myself into forever gear, and headed off down the road. It carried me thru a long day, and when I reached the house the effects of the heat pretty well collapsed me. A little rest (and a lot of hydration) and I am ready to go again today. Neither beat up, nor fresh.
I don’t think I really need to explain forever gear. It is that comfortable pace that feels as if you can go forever, (You really can’t, but it feels that way). It is not hurried, but it is purposeful. It becomes so automatic that your machine can do it for hours, while you just go along for the ride; looking at the scenery, daydreaming, or thinking deep thoughts while your forever gear grinds out the miles. The shup, shup, shup of my shoes on the pavement beats a steady cadence, and the miles pass by with metronomic precision. During my 4 month trek across the continent, vast swaths of land were eaten away by my modest and unassuming forever gear. Uphill or down, it did not matter. Over high mountain passes, or across the Great Basin, every mile was the same.
Now, a real journey run has some major advantages over a virtual one. During a real journey run, you have to develop a stoicism about the journey. Food and water may or may not be available when you want. The option when to take a short day is not often yours to choose. When you leave one place, there is no other choice but to reach the next. And however far they are apart… that is how far you have to go.The days are as long or short as the map makes them. In addition; the journey is the only thing on your agenda. Every Day! If you do not move today, tomorrow you are still where you were yesterday. And if you are not moving, there is nothing else to do except rest.
On this journey, you sleep in your own bed and eat at your own table. Everything you need is available every day. And the journey is wrapped around your normal activities. How can that be harder? Because you have choices. You have to make the willful choice to run; every day. There is only one choice out there on the road.; Go On or Go Home. And if you choose Go Home in the middle, you have to figure out how to get there!
This is where you really start to earn your finish. This is where you get up and go out, day after day, throw it into your forever gear, and chew up those miles. And this is where you face another disadvantage of the virtual journey. Sameness. During a real journey you never walk in your own tracks (not on purpose, anyway. When you do it is an agonizing thing) You get to see something new every day. I would advise you to take advantage of that map. Every day log the miles; see where you have been, and see where you are going. The desire to get out of where you are, and reach someplace new is the fuel that feeds the forever machine. Do not underestimate its value.
19,000 runners began this journey. A Month in there are around 11,000 still on pace to reach the end, and many more within reach. It is unlikely that over half will be there at the finish. This time you are entering is not easy. This is when you start to find out who you really are. Each of you has something inside you that you do not know is there, Each of you has the ability to be your own hero, not by building up what you have done, but by doing more than you believed you could do…. Unfortunately, you will not discover it in one dramatic moment, but in a thousand small ones.
(made as a comment, but i think worth adding)
what you really need most you cannot buy. there is as much magic in a 60$ virtual run as there is in a $1,000 adventure. Maybe more, because no one is going to nurse you through, You have to do it all yourself.