‘Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up’ – Chinese proverb.
I’m scared. And that’s a good thing. It got me out on a blustery night to grind out hill repeats toward a midnight salvation.
So what’s your motivation? I’m not talking about the ‘Big Why’, here. For me that is easy: I simply love to run through wild places. Simple and pure. It makes my soul – whatever that manifestation is – feel charged, along with all that other quasi-hippie waffle I tend to spill in these pages. Tree hugger, guilty as charged.
But when it comes to actual motivation of the moment – the driving force that in winter keeps you tramping out the front door rain, hail and – if you’re based in the southern Australian states like me – eff-all sunshine. No matter how much you love to dry-hump a eucalypt and wax lyrical about the spiritual journey along life’s dirty highway, some days are just plain hard yakka. At that moment, when you’d rather plump on the couch and (cringe alert) guiltily enjoy reality singing schlock show The Voice while bitching about prima-donna judge Delta while morphing into a fanboy of her fellow judge, Jessie J …arrr, did I just write that out loud? I digress – what is it that makes you cut short the brave performance by that guy with Tourette’s (Adam Ladell – amazing how singing quietens his devil like running wild quietens ours), kill the tube and brave the sleet?
Fear. And commitment. The former seeded and sprouted, a flowering force borne from the latter.
You have signed up to something big. A relative-to-you big. Could be your first run or your five hundredth. But it’s a biggie. And you know that you are not quite ready. And you don’t have the time to be well-oiled ready. But you have some time to do something about your current inadequacies that are rising from the pit of your stomach like a badly thought-out Nutella sandwich at kilometre eighty-eight; you feel sick right now.
In a weird way, it reminds me of the fear felt when you first fall in love and she/he says an unexpected “yes” (to whatever your sappy or salacious question was). And you think, shit, what now? What do I do? What if I look like a dick? What if I throw up? What if I pass out? Have I got clean undies on?
Transpose that to what is feeding my fear now and those things are all very real possibilities, and the undies factor is suddenly a resounding ‘no’.
Ahead of me is a big mountain run, in very high, very remote places, over many days in a row. That bit doesn’t worry me. I’ve (somehow) survived that before and now have a possibly ill-advised semi-confidence in terms of the terrain and my ability to move through it. But like a semi-hard on, that bravado could be deflated in an instant when the harsh fluorescent light of reality is switched on to reveal my ill-prepared nakedness.
Like a first love, it’s the company I’ll be keeping – if I can keep up – that turns my stomach.
Timmy Olson (above), I’ll tell anyone who will listen, is a monster in the way only a Western States 100 record holder can be. Look at him. He’s a running Buddha without the belly. A Zen ultra marathon man disrobed to reveal powerful piston legs, a core that is beefy yet lithe wrapped in a six-pack and packaged with a steely stare that makes mountains wilt before him; he’s the perfect running form of human being. That’s not hagiography, by the way, that’s just my insecurities sweating over the dude (and let’s face it, he’s a ‘dude’) I have somehow signed up to keep pace with on a Himalayan mission of likely little to no mercy. For me, that is.
High fiving Timmy will be his female mirror in Anna Frost, just as accomplished and at home in high mountains having won Hardrock 100 and knocked off the Nolans 14. I’ve already had the inglorious honour of clinging on to her heels for dear life up a steep incline or twenty in the same territory we are to return to as a crew of four, led by Everest summiteer, American Ben Clark.
Here, I look for solace to the Everest of quote machines, Winston Churchill:
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Well, there were certainly a few stumbles running with Anna (she didn’t see most of them, being too far ahead), but enthusiasm duly got me through. That and fear given the fact that there was no other way off the mountain – no roads, no crew car, not even a helicopter ride (Bhutan, the country in which we were running, may have a lauded policy of Gross Domestic Happiness revered above Gross Domestic Product, but its Gross Domestic Helicopter quota was also zero).
So as I head out into a blustery night, ignoring the high notes of The Voice calling my name, I hopelessly seek Everest-scale slopes in a seaside landscape that barely rises to dunes, feeling the urgency of my commitment to the team and the mission. Of what lies ahead, I feel like a giddy love-sick teenage cross country runner about to hit some hardcore hills with his heroes. But rather than give up and return to my couch-side critique of the latest contestant on The Voice, instead I go and run a 50 vertical metre hillock twenty five times with imaginings of how Frosty and Olson would judge me should I not; scathingly, like Delta Goodrem ripping through a sour note contestant.
Ah failure. The fuel of champions.
Chris Ord, AU Editor
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