How Dark Does It Get?

11:29 AM

Nearing the marathon distance with a little over six miles to go.  It had been a rough night at the Hell's Acre 50K.  We've been at it for close to six hours.   The temperature along with the humidity was akin to running in a closed steam room.

On the back stretch, in the dark of the early morning.

"How dark does it get?"

I know he's in a bad place.  Hell, I'm in a bad place.  So I began to try and explain, when he interrupts...  "No how dark has it been for you?"

Oh, I see.  He want's to hear my personal story.

"...Darker than you can imagine. " I quietly and grimly respond.  I continue, "You haven't seen darkness yet". 

Let's dive into a glimpse into the darkness, shall we...  A sort of twisted peek into an ultra-runner's darkness. Welcome to my dark side.

There are no words to properly convey how your angels and demons within can sit at the fellowship table of your soul and taunt your very existence.  Where the thought of a kiss from death is welcomed from the pain and torment of your current moment.  Yeah, dark like that.

With endurance running, especially as a mid-packer or back of the packer, you can never escape your problems.  Eventually you run into your problems head on.  All of life comes crashing down upon you and weighs you down.

Your body abilities are no longer a crutch.  Your natural physical abilities, your training, your physiology, and your endurance fade into oblivion and you're left within your own head.  Stripped naked of all the excuses, the facades, and the security blankets that protect you from you.

Even your worst of problems fade into the abyss as you break down mentally.  Pushing a body beyond it's capabilities to extraordinary feats within your own ability to conceive possible.

The dark dog which lures you into the void.

You are left alone with you.  The trap-house den of addiction of an ultra-runner and simultaneously the hell of iniquity many use distractions to avoid.

We are told in our society that exploring these darker areas of our existence is "bad".  We should work to exorcise these "unfit" mindsets from our being.  To even have thoughts of "negativity" means something is amiss.  Wrong.  Not right.  ...with you.

This in and of itself can take many spiraling into a societal depression thinking that something is "wrong" with them, when it's simply life.   And when you're at mile what ever, you don't give a fuck about societal norms.  You just want to know "why" am I still pushing further.

And it is in this place of "why" when everything else is failing in the darkness you find beauty.  You don't care how you smell anymore.  What you look like.  What your facebook status is.  How much work you have to complete on Monday.  Or a damned medal or buckle you many "earn" at the conclusion of this craziness.

You just want to know "why" in this moment, this space, this time, when you can't see or perceive a better place.  Lessor pain.  Or even a conclusion.  You are totally in the dark mentally, spiritually, and physically.   

And the answer isn't pretty.  Because the answer is hard, dirty, gritty, and ugly.  That moment of breaking in the night is pure grit and grit ain't cute.  You will want to jump off your cliff, I've jumped many times and enjoyed the fall.

Let's be frank.  I hated running when I started.  Loathe the idea.  But my physical heart health was of a larger concern than my hatred of running.

Trail running became my distraction from my life ills when I found myself soaking in the hot tube of despair and depression.  Trail running gave me a temporarily joy through suffering the trail to see a world I never imagine I would see with my own eyes.  Trekking out to the back country and all its wonder and dangers.  Forcing me further and further, running away from the daily grind of the reality that was crushing me spiritually.

Trail running became my fountain to replenish me spiritually and help me reconnect, while being distracted.

I wanted to go further.  Explore more.  Run into the woods and deserts of the real world, away from the pain, depression, and exhaustion of my daily grind.  I ventured too far and found myself in the world of ultra-running.

Ultras would bring me full circle.  Facing my fears.  Facing my depression.  Facing my anxieties.  Facing my problems head on, by stripping away all of the lies, the societal mask, and drama of survival in an ever increasingly do more with less while maintaining your sanity and being "happy" and "thankful" life we promote in our society.

Ultras would break me down to the very essence of my life, forcing me to deal with me.  Knowing when to break.  Knowing when to push further.  Understanding when I could push faster.  Being honest of knowing when to hold back.  Respecting the fact every race isn't meant to be finished but to be "experienced".

And every "experience" doesn't come with a medal, buckle, or even a feeling of accomplishment.  

In short life lessons on the run and learning not to fear the darkness within my soul.

Whatever it is you set out to accomplish for you, the road isn't going to be easy.  You will want to give up.

What you do when you want to give up and you have no more to give is the "experience" you set out for in the first place.

It is in the darkness of doubt is where you find who you really are and success doesn't mean you "complete" a task or "finish" the race.  Success is facing yourself in darkness and learning to love who you are at your worst in the darkest of the dark.

I've ventured into thoughts I avoid daily while out on the trails.  Bad decisions and why I made the decisions I made.

I've hallucinated (Javelina Jangover 50k) of giant tree sized anaconda, wanting to feel the bite to free me from the physical pain of my first journey beyond marathon distance.  It was a tree, but my eyes told my mind otherwise.

I've wanted to simply stop in the middle of a trail in the midst of the night and hug a large cactus next to the trail while climbing, as the idea of thorns piercing every inch of my body felt more pleasurable than the physical, mental, and spiritual torture I was experiencing (Oh the memories of the Javelina Jundred 100K).

I've wanted to crawl into the fetal position on concrete and ponder my life and the quietness of death.

I've wanted to and have shed more than a tear or two mid-run or after a hard effort for reasons.  And in many cases, no reason.   

Now I'm not proclaiming every ultra-runner during every run, extreme sport enthusiast, or passionate individual is struggling with some deep depression.  Nope!  I quite find enjoyment in my personal exploits.  ...sometimes.

I've learned to grow in and embrace the darkness, welcome your Dark Side; welcome to mine.

Remember your mental health is as important as your spiritual and physical health.  And so many struggle to find their outlet, have been fortunate enough to discover tools within themselves, or discover sources without to overcome their struggles.  You don't have to struggle alone or wonder how to help someone, get the help and / or guidance you need at Better Help (not sponsored).  

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