One of our Baltimore running group members did something that is still a completely unfathomable to me - Alyssa ran 100 miles up and down mountains. Her race report is pretty inspiring.
However, I have to say that leading up to the race and during the race I had some mixed feelings about her doing this. Part of me was thinking, "what is she trying to prove?" and "why would you put yourself in a situation like that?" While I was following her progress on the shaky web service of the Western States website, I couldn't help but have the same feelings of having a friend go through a major surgery. It's different than a normal race - you just hope they survive the thing without any lasting ill effects.
But, after reading her report and finding a quote from George Sheehan, M.D. (I'll post a little bio on him later) I feel differently. Yes, some of my change in perspective might come from the fact that she actually survived (and won her age group) - but, I also realize that Western States is in some ways the ultimate test. And I have to applaud anyone who values pushing themselves to the limits (within some bounderies of safety). Although, I don't run ultra's - it's the same feeling of self discovery and challenge that motivates me - and I can certainly respect that. The late Dr. Sheehan's quote sums it up much better than I can.
"We run long to learn our inner most self. In the long run we get down to bedrock. We find courage and strength we never knew we possessed. We give witness to a person we have never been before.
The run is like religion and play. It resembles art and music, it fills an area of life that is of tremendous importance but has no practical value. And like those other similar activities, running is among our most important functions. It helps us discover and form the self, we find where we are and where we are going. We learn who we are and who we might be. The long run is a place of self discovery."
George Sheehan, M.D.