spectacular talent meets

Some (actually surprisingly short) time ago, I wrote down my thoughts about why spectacular talent needs support. In the meantime, Mira Rai, the girl who triggered my blog post, was able to show her talent in some races that matter (matter in as winning-this-doesn’t-go-unnoticed) and also managed to swoon Lloyd Belcher into making her the lead character of his next trailrunning film. So, Mira seems deservedly on her way! Keep track of her via trailrunningnepal.org because her story is only starting. And send some donation Lloyd’s way because the film’s budget, even though extremely basic, isn’t covered yet.

With her talent speaking for itself, I wouldn’t write about Mira again, were it not that Lizzy Hawker just included Mira in a short film by her sponsor Northface:

Lizzy knows Mira a couple of months longer than I do, and we shared her company during the 2014 Mustang Trail race. The above video is about Lizzy, and focuses on her struggle through a prolonged period of injuries. Next month her book Runner.  A short story about a long run is going to be released, and having had the privilege of a preview I can recommend it without any hesitation (which for my ever-doubting self is quite something). Anyone who has followed her, and thus read the occasional blog post on her site, knows the girl can write. For those who haven’t, let me reblog one of them. If you like the below, you’re gonna like the book even more.

Lines. The ones that we cross and the ones that we don’t

Lizzy running with Ama Dablam in the background Credit: Alex Treadway

Lizzy running with Ama Dablam in the background Credit: Alex Treadway

The start line of the 2013 UTMB is one line that I won’t cross this year.

Sometimes life throws you a challenge that you weren’t expecting. Sometimes those plans, those dreams get thrown into disarray and you have to pick up the pieces, start over again, learn to adapt your flow.

I tried. I really tried. After injury earlier in the summer, I tried to be patient, to wait, to swallow my doubts, to swallow my fears and to work back to the form I wanted to be in for UTMB. Things were just turning around, finally the foot was feeling solid, the fitness coming back. And then, a new pain. Back to the wavering uncertainties. The news that I didn’t want to hear. Stress fracture. Of the femur. No question. No race.

Injury. It’s happened before. It will happen again. But each time is new, each time you wonder ‘what if’. But injuries demand respect. And perhaps give an opportunity to stand back from ourselves, to watch, to listen, to observe. To become aware.

Simple awareness.

I am so disappointed not to be racing. But with the UTMB you become part of something that is so much more than just the incredible challenge of the race itself. Every runner, every volunteer and every supporter becomes part of something truly special. The shared passion and dedication make this so much more than just a race, more a journey that we share together, and I still really look forward to being a part of that.

For all of you on that start line of the 2013 UTMB, keep aware, stay in the moment and enjoy! That is why you are there!

I wish each of you a beautiful race, and ‘bon courage’.

These are some words written earlier in the summer as I was recovering from earlier injury and preparing for the UTMB …. the irony ….

“Sometimes life throws you a challenge that you weren’t expecting. Sometimes those plans, those dreams get thrown into disarray and you have to pick up the pieces, start over again, learn to adapt your flow. This is how it seemed to me, when at the beginning of June, injury destroyed the plans I had for the summer, and set me on a different course trying to heal and regain form in time for the UTMB.

The world is as it is, and we are as we are. It will snow when it snows. The wind will blow when it blows. The sun will shine when it shines. We cannot make things as we want them to be, need them to be, or wish them to be. They are as they are. We have to learn to flow. To flow with the ups and the downs, around the twists and turns, into the corners, into the wide open, to turn ourselves inside out and stand on our head if need be. We cannot bend, shape, fold the world into how we wish things were. Instead we have to bend, shape, fold ourselves to follow the course that life throws before us; when things feel harsh or difficult, as well as when they are gentle and easy. Being grateful for what is there, for what we have in that moment, rather than wishing for more, lest what we have in that moment is taken from us. One of the truths in life is that nothing is permanent; life is a constant ebb and flow. Things are as they are, and it is ok. That is the magic of life.

Sometimes life is about lines. The ones that we cross and the ones that we don’t.

I broke into a packet of my precious supply of Mustang (tsampa) biscuits today. And no I wasn’t running hard or fast. But, I did run long. That is, longer than I thought I could. Maybe those biscuits brought with them just a little of the magic and mystery of Mustang!

Lines in the sky during the Mustang Mountain Trail Race. Credit: Lizzy Hawker

Lines in the sky during the Mustang Mountain Trail Race. Credit: Lizzy Hawker

This morning I crossed a start line, and this afternoon I crossed a finish line. Less than 24 hours passed between deciding to race and reaching that finish line. But, it felt longer with its kaleidescopic medley of emotions, uncertainties, doubts, pain and effort.

From the outside it might have appeared to be an ‘off day’, well over an hour slower than I would have expected to run, had all things been equal.
But all things were not equal.

I had tears in my eyes crossing that finish line in 5th place, and probably felt more emotion than when I set the course record back in 2006. This was one start line I wasn’t sure I should be on. I was uncertain if the foot would hold. Or if the legs could carry me. Or if the mind would be strong enough. Or if I’d even make it through those fast early kilometres of tarmac and out of town, let alone the rest. The healing of that stress fracture that was so unequivocal in its demands has remained a little too tenuous for comfort.

My plan was (thanks, Rich); to imagine I’d written on the back of my t-shirt “recovering from a stress fracture, please pass me to the right”, to take photos, to talk a lot at the refreshment points, to have fun, to walk a lot, to enjoy having company around me.

The reality? I felt the foot a lot during the first half, and with the recent hiatus in training, caution dictated a slower than normal pace. But, the legs could still carry me. And the head and the heart wanted to pull on towards that finish line. So it went … step, by step, by step.

It hurt. It wasn’t easy. But I ran harder than I thought I would be able to.
Just one short week ago my broken ribs were still giving enough pain to wake me from sleep, my legs were aching from two hour uphill hikes, and I probably hadn’t run even 8 km at a stretch. Three days before the race I’d tested myself with a walk run of 50 km. With considerably less of the running than the walking, it has to be said, and taking an unmentionable number of hours, due in part to copious amounts of very necessary ‘rock sitting’ and ‘crumpled heap staring at the sky lying’. Not exactly confidence building. Neither was it adhering to conventional ideas of tapering. But after all you can’t really ‘taper’ from near to nothing? And, at that point, racing was the furthest thing from my mind.

So, I’m not entirely sure from which ‘bag’ I managed to pull out finishing a 78 km mountain race. But somehow I went beyond what I thought was possible for my body and mind ‘today’.

It is doubtful, but if anyone that was here in Davos happens to read this, then a huge thank you to any of you who gave me a word of support (runner, volunteer or supporter). You may not realise just how much the encouragement means.

To those of you reading at home: please don’t do as I do, do as I say. The 10% rule of increasing intensity or volume is (probably) sensible. Just remember it refers to ‘by the week’, not by the day, or by the hour. I have no idea what I’m doing. I only ever go by ‘feel’. But with the 2013 UTMB fast approaching, I’m willing (within reason) to risk throwing some caution to the winds.

Our limits today may not be where they were yesterday, or where we hope they will be tomorrow. But it is today that counts. And sometimes even in ‘today’ we can go beyond what we think is possible!”

Lizzy Training on the UTMB route in 2012 Credit: Lizzy Hawker

Lizzy Training on the UTMB route in 2012
Credit: Lizzy Hawker

Lizzy’s and Mira’s stories are completely different. And apart from sharing a spectacular talent for running mountains, they’re really very different people. Except for one commonality, a deep felt sense that with talent comes responsibility. That talent’s ability to inspire others should be an active pursuit, rather than a nice side-effect. But ‘responsibility’ probably has the wrong connotation here. I don’t think either woman feels this as an obligation. My sense is that when looking inside, it was very much part of what they discovered, through unthinkably different trajectories, as what makes them tick, what feels like the most satisfactory ultimate goal of their talent. Read Lizzy’s book and you’ll understand. That Mira discovered it so early on might have something to do with the way she grew up as the second of five siblings from a poor village near the town of Bhojpur, Eastern Nepal.

Writing the above made me think about a Morgan Freeman quote in an otherwise bad movie (but entertaining, the two often go together) about the logic of evolution: if it’s good pass it on (or something of that nature, memory, wouldn’t it be nice to have some…). Yes, true, Freeman can make scientific nonsense sound like truth, but this one stuck and intuitively appeals. And if that intuiton doesn’t belie me, what these girls have hit upon is some real wisdom.

About roger henke

Still figuring out the story line that would satisfy myself here. Listening to what my family and friends evoke, what the words I absorb, the images that move me, the movements that still me, point to.
This entry was posted in (trail) running and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s