I’m currently sitting at 7013 feet elevation in Flagstaff, Arizona while reading a book on Alex Honnold. Who?
The rock climbing guy from Free Solo that like Schrödinger’s cat was seemingly both dead and alive up on those Yosemite rock faces for THE ENTIRE FILM.
Does Alex Honnold fear death? I’m not sure. But I do, so I’ve never left the safety of a climbing gym.
Despite my mild aversion to sheer heights and that Alex has mega sponsorships with companies such as The North Face, I believe that we’re more similar than what meets the eye. Really, he’s not just similar to me, but most competitive runners.
What am I talking about? Getting high. Like, really high. No no no, elevation high.
Runners are enticed to do extreme activities with little to no regard what they put their bodies through. While running with some friends out here in Flag, a common quip is always, “Why do we do this to ourselves?”
The exploration of places anew stoke the fire of our endorphins. Powering up a sand dune or biking across an entire state, if not for charity, realistically hold no practical applications besides general health. But most people that do these things are already fairly healthy. So why?
When the great George Leigh Mallory (trust me on this one) was asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, he simply answered
“Because it’s there”
There’s something naturalistic in our intrinsic nature about climbing mountains or going the distance for no real reason at all. We do it because we can.
Early this past June I went out for a 30 mile bike ride in western Michigan. Roughly 6 and a half hours later I stopped back at my car, completing 100 miles on a Trek mountain bike.
I’m an idiot right?
That’s what ‘normal’ people think of about these feats. I didn’t do it for monetary gain or extra food or shelter, our basic primal motives. I did it because I got to 30 and thought hmmm…that’s almost a third of the way to 100 so might as well.
Because it’s thereGeorge Leigh Mallory
Runners are mentally different. They grind out days and run hundreds of miles just to get a few seconds faster. Economically, the Law of Diminishing Returns should have halted us by now. Yet, it hasn’t.
President John F. Kennedy famously said that we do things, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
This quote deserves to go on a poster above a young runner’s bed just as much as a Steve Prefontaine quote. I even included a picture if you want to somehow copy paste and screen print it upon reading this. Why though? Because it epitomizes everything that makes runners who we are.
Now, as I gaze out at the San Francisco peaks a mere 5 miles away, the immortal words of John Muir speak to me existentially.
The mountains are calling and I must go