As I struggled for 5 minutes to remove my mud-caked compression socks after completing the Spartan Beast, I had to ask myself why I do this. Most of my body hurts today, and a 7 year old groin injury has become a fresh wound once again. I really had to spend time pondering what I’m getting out of it. Ultimately I’m glad I signed up, but why? I’ll never finish in first place. It’s expensive. Preparation takes a lot of time, which I don’t have. The skin gets cut and mud is ground into the cuts.
It must be some kind of visceral reaction to all of the things I was incapable of at one time in my life, either due to inability, or fear. I couldn’t run for 5 minutes without coughing up tar from the previous night’s cigarettes. I couldn’t complete big projects out of fear that it might create expectations in other people. I was always looking for the exit. From everything — relationships, jobs, responsibility, life. If I had any goal at all, it was to feel as empty as possible. Negative thoughts were unbearable, and positive thoughts were fleeting and undeserved.
There is something symbolic about crossing a finish line…a kind of reset. It is easy to get overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and doubt if a day isn’t going smoothly. Things that I don’t normally care about become more prominent. Not having a Lamborghini, for instance. I don’t care about cars at all. Never have. But if I’m having a bad day and stop next to a Lamborghini at an intersection, a whole series of voices start chirping in the background. “You would have one of those if you had made better choices.” “You know he’s driving to a giant house that has a resort inside of a bowling alley inside of a movie theater.” “The lady in the passenger seat thinks you are staring at her. You should roll your window down. ‘I’m not staring at you, I’m staring at a reflection of my own insecurity!'” HONK! from behind me. Really? Another Lamborghini?
A 14 mile hike through a western movie landscape isn’t conducive to that kind of wasteful self-flagellation. At times it requires precision focus on the next step in front of you. While we don’t always realize it, all of us are trying to get to a place in our minds that enables us to experience only what is happening right now. It is, after all, the only thing that exists. Meditation is the ultimate mind training to get to that place, but it isn’t always easy to get there. At least for me. These races achieve it by proxy. That’s really what it is I guess. Five hours of living in the “now.”