“The only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”
– Christopher McDoungall, Born to Run
On Monday, I met the Beast while running up the steepest hill in my neighborhood 8 times in a row.
As I started up the first time, I thought, “How fun!” feeling my muscles move in new ways. Fun quickly faded to full-body fatigue and rejection. My muscles screamed, “Um, No. Stop!” Reaching the hilltop, I was gasping for air as if drowning.
Oddly, Monday’s hill training touched a nerve I hadn’t touched in all my training for the Boston Marathon 2010. Thankfully, I recognized my opponent right away:
“Hello, Beast, Nice to meet you.”
Born to Run author Christopher McDougall describes ultrarunners’ reaction to extreme fatigue: “Instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it. You get to know it so well, you’re not afraid of it anymore.”
One ultrarunner, Lisa Smith-Batchen describes exhaustion as a playful pet – the Beast. “I love the Beast. I actually look forward to the Beast showing up because every time he does, I handle him better. I get him more under control.”
“You can’t hate the Beast and expect to beat it,” McDougall explains, “The only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”
My training pales in comparison to ultrarunners 100 mile races, but I imagine the Beast remains the same – a dark formidable discomfort at the edge between the past and future; between weakness and strength; between fear and potential.
I tried embracing the Beast on Monday, telling myself “It’s weakness and sadness melting into the sidewalk, Julie. Let it go.”
I’m not yet in control. The Beast left me distraught and scared. Reaching home, I burst into tears. My muscles tremored slightly. I thought I’d throw up.
I don’t know why I’m compelled to keep going, but I am. My heart remains dedicated to this fight. I’m determined to keep my dates with the Beast and to get to know him better. I can’t imagine how to make friends with him or love him, but that’s the mystery and joy of the journey.
Thank you for following my attempt to run the Mount Washington Road Race in my father’s honor! Please send positive energy, good vibes, prayers, etc. I need all the help I can get.