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Jason Bryant gave an optional talk at the trail running camp that I think we called something like “Spiritual Lessons from Running.”  Jason said he’d rather have titled it, “Abraham was a Liar, Peter Fished Naked and I Peed on My Goat Beard.”  Neither title did justice to the talk he gave.

“What is possibly the most significant event in my life, caught me entirely by surprise. It was a canoe trip on the Nantahala River. It was the moment I was standing cold and naked on the bank of the river. To be more accurate the precise moment was just after I put clothes back on, but it sounds more dramatic to say when I was cold and naked. I didn’t see this event coming, but life doesn’t always happen as one plans it. So here’s the condensed version.”

The trip introduced him to fear and lack of control.  He told the group about fear’s tremendous impact on his life and shared a large part of his journey from that moment by the Nantahala to this one by the Nueces River.  He touched lightly on his running life, but the metaphors came from the river.  Afterwards he made space for others to share their insights.  And some did.  And right now you should be wishing you were there because it was Just Right.

Running and ultrarunning, in particular, lend themselves to metaphor.  And the camp was designed to allow the mentors and coaches to share their running metaphors.  Mine has always been that life is an ultramarathon.  (Because you only get to hit the wall once in a marathon.)  Ultramarathons mirror the suffering inherent in life’s journey.  For me running 100s has been a means to practice suffering in a safe environment.  I figure if I practice, I might be able to accept real suffering with more grace and dignity when I face it.  Running long has also taught me compassion, empathy, patience and humility.  I know I’m blurring the line between metaphor, simile, and simple lessons right now.  That’s fine.  All are useful.  And that was one of the messages of Jason’s talk.  It can all be useful.  All the crap that happens in life can be useful — to you and to others.  There is a middle ground between being defined by trauma and denying it.  (Thanks for sharing that thought Mike Erwin.)

Jason finished his talk by sharing the mantra the Nantahala gave him: “I didn’t come here to not go over this Fall.”

The Leadville 100 gave me: “You are better than you think you are.  You can do more than you think you can.”  (Ken Chlouber by way of Kurt Hahn.)  It’s served me well during races, and when Asa’s peed on the bathroom floor for the second time in a day, and most every minute in between.

Next year’s camp will be Veteran’s Day 2013 November 8-11.

Source: Liza Howard