16 January 2012

Is Life a Marathon or an Ultramarathon?

Is life an ultramarathon or a marathon?

Sometimes, the journey isn’t about where you go but what you find within yourself.

I feel like much of what traveling is about is about finding myself. I discover more and more each day about the world, about people, about other cultures, about myself.

I think that people are marathoners or ultramarathoners.

I used to be a marathoner. Now I’m an ultrarunner.

Sure there’s the non-runners too, but what I’m talking about doesn’t even apply to necessarily running, but it’s a metaphor for life.

Marathoners are obsessed with specific goals, times. They measure themselves against things much grander than they can achieve (i.e., they’re 5 hour runners dreaming of running Boston), they become obsessed with pace, they are particular about goals and times and water bottles and outfits.

Ultrarunners have a goal – “I want to go sub 21, but I’ll take sub 24. And if it’s a bad race, as long as I finish. But if that ITB that’s been flaring up becomes unbearable, I know I’ll have to stop.” And then the race is about that nice girl you run with from mile 19 to 39, whose name you never got but you know that she is a biologist who works in a big lab for a pharmaceutical company, but wants to move to a university except she would have to move towns and her son is in a great school and very fragile and she doesn’t like to move him around. And it’s about those homemade cinnamon chip cookies you get at mile 68. And about those ghosts you saw dancing in the woods at mile 84. And it’s about getting too cold and total strangers giving you the clothes off their backs and everyone helping you – everything helping you – to finish and discover more about your inner self.

As I travel the slow route – 15 hour bus rides, sleeping on uncomfortable hostel beds, waking up too early, napping sporadically on planes, long days, drinking, meeting amazing people, meeting mean people. Seeing ancient ruins or rainforests or beaches or mountains or deserts, all on the same trip – and experiencing the best and the worst and the most mediocre of all.

It’s about experiencing everything. I don’t want to go to a cruise – only the highlights – because you miss the realness of things. Sure, I don’t like the long bus rides and the beds collapsing on me in the middle of the night and the bad food (Can we say gross cheese with some mushy veggies and occasional noodles called vegetable lasagna?). I would much prefer an easier life, but honestly, sometimes that’s not an option. To get to where I’m going now – Chachapoyas – I took a 20 minute cab to a 4 hour bus to an 11 hour bus – overnight. There’s no other way.

If I want to go to the jungle and see these ruins and see what Peru is all about – then I need to take it all – cheesey sauce and all. I just sometimes wish I could fast-forward to the good parts, through the pain and unpleasant experiences

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