When I was growing up, my parents read a lot of Eastern philosophy. I borrowed many of their books: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Jane Roberts' Nature of Personal Reality, Satyam Nadeen's From Onions to Pearls, and so on.
Enlightenment means living in a state of bliss. But bliss doesn't mean "always happy." It means accepting that all emotions are a vital part of life, and that you can learn to appreciate - and in fact relish - every single one. I personally am not interested in enlightenment, as it sounds really boring. I enjoy my ego too much. But I do try to appreciate everything life throws at me, not just the good stuff.
This past weekend had both pain and joy. And it's easy to say, "well I'd definitely prefer the part where you had an awesome party full of laughs, partial nudity, and ice cream with a bunch of amazing people." But it would have been impossible without our shared love for something that inherently requires one to embrace pain: Running.
|Ice cream and partial nudity. Oh oops, wrong picture!|
Normal parties are fun, and I've gone to plenty. But I generally feel empty afterwards. They're like potato chips. They feel good at the time, but immediately leave you craving for more. What I experienced Sunday was electric, and I still feel good thinking back on it, like a pervasive current that infuses me with warmth. I can't imagine anyway to replicate that. It's the sort of love that only comes from sharing in- and helping one another through- a prolonged suffering.
Ice cream and pants were wildly flung about, and we all just thought, "this is totally fine. Great in fact." After voluntarily beating up our bodies - and watching our friends beat up theirs - for hours, every quirk and eccentricity we discovered about one another just added flavor to our already-huge appreciation of one another. But I'm getting too far ahead of myself. Let me talk about Wineglass first.
Wineglass Marathon was a truly amazing experience.
I traveled to Corning with Meghan, Geoffrey, and his daughter Aria on Saturday. Aria had been training hard for the half marathon, and Meghan and Geoffrey were going to run it with her to support her rekindled love of running. So the weekend immediately started with a strong sense of family and generosity. A sense that would suffuse my entire experience. Running is hard, but it's a bit easier with constant love and encouragement.
We went to the expo, which was exactly the same as last year's expo, except the booth that sold shoe charms moved. I got a 2016 Wineglass charm to go with the 2015 charm. I checked out the many pieces at the Museum of Glass. I always feel really nervous there, like I'm going to trip and smash, just, everything. Not one or two things. But all of the things. I didn't break anything though.
|I didn't break this either!|
The real highlight of Saturday was the LUNAR (Lace Up Now and Run) meet-up. Most of these folks I'd only seen online, and finally seeing them in person was somewhat surreal. Everyone recognized me immediately because I wore my kilt. Shawn was there, despite still recovering from his recent brain surgery. That was really inspiring, seeing our captain looking strong as ever, supporting us on our races.
As I expected, the LUNARs were all really positive and fun. It didn't feel like meeting new people; it felt like a family reunion. Because that's what we all were: family. Except there was no surly aunt or mildly racist grandpa. Just good vibes among a bunch of crazy runners. It didn't really matter where we came from or how we grew up. We were all bound together as runners.
Running isn't just a hobby. It empowers you physically, mentally, and spiritually. You can't punish yourself for that long and that hard without tearing down all the crap inside of you and building yourself back up. I could sense that strength, will, and appreciation for living that all these folks had. The energy was palpable. Of course it helped that most of us had been tapering for a while.
After that we went to the pasta dinner. Geoffrey, Meghan, Aria and I showed up late and there wasn't anywhere for us to sit. Finally someone offered us four seats right in front of the podium. Wow that was so great! And then we realized who we sat with: Bart Yasso. Bart works for Runners World. He has run on all seven continents. He is a pillar of the running community, and a very generous and wonderful man all around.
But I didn't know that about him. I knew he was well-known and respected because of how excited everyone was. I'd heard about the Yasso 800s, and I knew he designed the Lehigh Valley course. And even though I crashed and burned on that course, it was still very nice! And the train totally wasn't his fault.
Then he spoke and presented a slide show, and I was blown away. He ran in Antarctica, and he has the pictures of penguins and seals to prove it. He ran a marathon around Mount Everest, after hiking for ten days to get there. He ran the Bad Water ultramarathon: 146 brutal miles through Death Valley. He has dodged rhinoceroses, run in South Africa, run naked, and countless other crazy things. And he shared all his stories with playfulness and humility.
|Meghan and Geoffrey with Bart Yasso!|
I saw this reflected in the LUNARs and other runners I saw that weekend. They don't run for recognition, and despite how hard we push ourselves and how often we break, we can still laugh about our grueling experiences. And Bart loves the community. He has spent most of his life putting energy into it so it can blossom. And much of the camaraderie and success we enjoy are thanks to people like him, and people like Shawn.
Geoffrey and I had two helpings of dinner. I'm not sure if it was "all you can eat", but we definitely did. Then we loitered in our hotel room for a while. I thought I was going to have to sleep on the floor, but Meghan got me a cot. She's like a sorceress when it comes to real life. If it was up to me and Geoffrey, we would've slept in a port-o-potty next to the starting line.
We woke up at 4:30AM. Aria had told us that she had literally never gotten up that early. We mocked her relentlessly. Partly because we wanted to show off how "adult" we were for getting up early to do our shit every day. But mostly because we were obscenely jealous and couldn't remember what sleep actually felt like. We drank too much coffee (just kidding; there's no such thing as too much) and got on our buses. The three of them got on the half-marathon bus.
I waited for Brian Simpson and rode the marathon bus with him. You'll remember him from this post: Running Until His Last Breath. He was running the full marathon, 10% lung capacity be da#*ed. I met him the day before at the LUNAR meet-up. Unlike the others, it didn't feel weird to meet him in person for the first time. I felt like I already knew him really well.
What Brian didn't know was that I was running the marathon with him. He already had his friend Jill running with him, but I figured the more support the better! Jill is a truly amazing person. She has run many races with Brian, and always anticipates his needs along the way. She makes sure he stays alive. It was yet one more amazing show of runners supporting one another.
It was the longest I have ever run, in terms of time on my feet. It took us about 5 hours and 42 minutes to complete the marathon. Despite that it didn't feel long. I enjoyed it the whole time, running with two awesome people. I got to really engage with the volunteers and spectators, and to enjoy the scenery. And I was able to post updates of Brian's progress along the way. I did my best to keep our spirits up with my kilted tomfoolery.
|Many updates along the way!|
Brian was pretty solid for the first 20 miles. The last 10k were tough. But he never gave up, or even thought of giving up. He only rested exactly how much he needed to, and then pushed himself to keep going. I was proud and amazed by his perseverance. There was never any pity from me or Jill when he struggled. Just respect.
Despite how long it took us to reach the finish, our LUNAR friends were there to cheer us across the mat. Geoffrey, who also coaches Brian, joined us for the final stretch. We were awash with cheers and love as we sprinted to the end. Whatever exhaustion I experienced evaporated in that moment. There are very few times in life when hours of physical torment can be converted directly into euphoria. It's transcendent.
|60 and still kicking a$$!|
The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled with an incredible amount of food and adventure. I can't remember ever having so much fun with a group of people, especially ones I had only just recently met face-to-face. I wish I could name all of the individuals who made the evening both amazing and hilarious but I will respect their anonymity. However, if any of your boisterous fools contacts me, I will totally update this post with whatever hilarious personal tales and photos you wish to share!
We ate: Pizza, ice cream, chicken wings, cake, more ice cream, pumpkin spice popcorn, more pizza, and still more ice cream. We listened to Radiohead on a jury-rigged setup. We made kilts out of towels and had a photoshoot. I hope everyone involved tells me, "post those pics now"... because I want to post those pics! But I'll wait. Trust me when I say it was exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. Underwear ended up in the kitchen. Innocent bystanders were flashed. It was fantastic.
I was more comfortable with these folks than with friends I've known for decades. We teased, we joked, we flirted, and we laughed so hard that tears streamed out of our eyes. I can't even remember what was said. It was the vibe. We were all high on sugar and endorphins and it oozed out of us as a wave of slightly-inappropriate humor and affection.
|That's not a river. It's our inappropriate oozings!|
Everyone seemed to have the attitude of, "we've seen shit, we've gone through shit, and nothing you can say or do would shock us. So just let it rip." And we did. And it was good. Again, I wish I could name everyone in person and share more specific stories. There's no way I could possibly replicate the joy of the evening with my meager words. Just, WOW. Thinking about it now is making me giddy and high all over again.
That night, I slept amazingly well and had good dreams.
Sometimes I push myself too hard. Sometimes I get burned out. Sometimes I feel crushingly alone. And then sometimes I have a weekend like I did in Corning, and I realize:
I love running.
I love the running community.
I love how I feel when I push myself past my limits, and watch others do the same, to achieve something we used to think was impossible.
And I love watching this group of exhausted and broken people get together and somehow whip together a level of energy that would power a rocketship.
A rocketship wrapped in a kilt, topped with ice cream, and blasting Weezer as it roars into the stratosphere.