A few years ago I was entranced by a movie called "A League of Their Own." In this film a character played by Tom Hanks takes on the role of managing an all-women's baseball team during World War II. In one particularly poignant scene a distraught Geena Davis complains to Hanks.
"This is so damn hard!"
Hanks replies, "Damnit, it's the hard that makes it great!"
This scene came back to me today as I was climbing a local mountain with good friend and fellow ultrarunner Mike Stevens. We were putting a cap on a long Memorial Day Weekend of training. After long runs on Saturday and Sunday we were in the midst of a 20 mile, 5000 foot run. It was hard, and it was great.
As people who know me can surely attest I believe that success in 100 mile trail runs depends as much on the head as it does on the legs. Certainly, hard, steady training is necessary but training the mind is more subtle, more nuanced, and, to me, more important.
There will come a time in the last 20 miles of a 100 where my body will say, "stop, slow down, just get 'er done. This is hard." In those moments I remember Tom Hanks and I say, often literally, "It's the hard that makes it great!"
We are now less than five weeks away from the Western States 100. The field is stacked with some of the best ultrarunners in the nation. It seems that everyone is training harder and longer than ever before and as more attention comes to the sport the stakes get higher and higher.
And so, my questions are;
Who has it between the ears to win the race this year?
Who has what it takes physically and mentally to get to Placer High School first?
Who is going to get it done?
Indeed, who is going to spend the next four weeks working on that mental side?
Who out there will be able to say, when the body says stop, GO!