Thursday, November 3, 2011

Running and Being

OK, I'll start right out and say I am claiming Dr. Sheehan's title with this post. Not because I think I deserve it, quite the contrary, rather, it's been what I've been thinking about lately as it relates to, well, running and being.

Then, I will say that I lay claim to a bit of an insider's track to the late great Dr. Sheehan as he and my grandfather, Stanley O. Wilkins, were neighbors (literally) in Red Bank, NJ in the "50's and '60's. My grandfather treated jockeys and other detritus from the Monmouth Race Track and Doctor Sheehan, well, he treated the rest of us.

And, needless to say, he lived much longer than my grandfather.

But, he also left an incredible legacy.

I remember being out on a run with my good friend Kevin Sawchuk seven or so years ago and we were discussing mortality, as one is wont to do on a long run in the mountains, in the early morning hours on a January day, and I asked him what I thought, at the time, was an innocent question,

"If you had to choose between these two things what would you pick,

One, you get to run Western States 100 and you have the race of your life eclipsing your PR by an hour and getting a jacket from Greg for your efforts and the Silver Buckle to boot...

And never run again.

or,

You never run Western States, or any other race, and instead, you get to run three miles a day, every day, no more, no less, for the rest of your life, until you die.

What would you choose?"

Running

and

Being

23 comments:

GZ said...

Ah, the constellation versus supernova article in the frame of a question, eh?

Or a bit of a deal with the devil.

Tonight I will answer A. On a different night, I could be easily talked into B.

Charlie said...

No choice at all. Take the 3 miles. That is 1095 miles per year and 54,750 miles if I live till I'm 94. You could have plenty of fun doing those 54,750 miles. Why would you give that up for one 100 mile race that would all be over in a day

AJW said...

GZ, i need to block you from these posts, sort of, but you need to run a real 100.

Charlie, don't think about it as any other 100 mile race, but, rather, the race of a lifetime.

Buckle on the wall, t-shirt encased in bronze, etc...

And yes, CvS in the form of a question.... What really makes us tick?

sharmanian said...

Wouldn't a fairer question be one phenomenal race or lots of good races? Then I'd struggle more to decide, but in the (admittedly contrived) format of your question I'd take the wonder race then play other sports and try to get everything out of them instead...and hike...fast...a lot.

Hank Dart said...

I think as ultra-runners - and I'll talk for the whole lot here - it's going long that really feeds our souls, so while 3 miles/d would bring some satisfaction, it would always feel like prelude to something you wouldn't ever get to do (go longer). I think I'd choose to go out with a bang, not a whimper, and go with the perfect 100. And then tune up my bike.

Derrick said...

Reminds me of that old survey taken of athletes asking... if you could win Olympic Gold by taking a magic pill, but it would kill you in 5 years. Can't remember the exact %, but remember it was shockingly high the number of people who would take the pill.

Me?....I'd take the pill when I turned 90yrs old.

As for WS vs 3 miles a day? I'm a creature of habit and love my daily trail time. I'd find the nicest 3mile loop that includes some amazing pine needles and great views... and run it as slow as possible each day.

TrailClown said...

I've always thought that Steve Prefontaine's quote along the lines of "If you're not going for gold you are sacrificing the gift" to be sort of backwards. I think the "gift" is the ability to be able to run the 3 miles day after day. And if you sacrifice that for one golden run in the sun, the cost is pretty steep. Maybe your PF is reminding you of the gift? But damn, I would give quite alot to be top ten at WS (maybe one of my children?). If you read Sheehan's biography, he basically did sacrifice his 6 children to his running schedule. Food for thought. As a side note, my grandparents lived in Little Silver, NJ (Red Bank area) and when I'd visit them as a kid in the 70's I wore a matching 70's warm-up suit to jog around the block in their neighborhood. Good memories.

GZ said...

AJW - nice! LOL and agreed.

Olga said...

The latter. And to make sure I get "ultrarunner's high" (because Ty is right, personally I don't even smile much till I am 3 miles into the run), I'd power-walk for an hour before - and then after to make it last:)

Craig Thornley said...

Prunes, coffee, a daily three miler ... I'd be a happy old man.

PatrickGarcia said...

I would absolutely take the latter. I love running, but I don't pretend that if it was taken away I couldn't find another activity to peak my interest (CX, MTB, and Climbing all come to mind). I am very much of the opinion that if you have one shot to make it as good as it ever could be, you have to take it.

PatrickGarcia said...

I meant the former.

Gretchen said...

I recall you mentioning this conversation over on Hank's blog. Definitely an interesting question, and I love the array of responses.

I ran track and XC for many years before I became an ultrarunner. I can't imagine not running at all, but I can sure still get a huge high out of an ass-kicking interval workout on the track that totals 3 miles. I can think of many, many ways to run 3 miles differently and never get bored. No way would I give it all up for biking or some other sport that doesn't define my soul in the same way. Not a chance.

Jeff said...

I choose A. And then take up mountain biking.

Wes at East Coasters said...

That is some GREAT food for thought. I'll have to mull that over on this weekend's long runs...

Brett said...

Luckily, we don't need to face any 2 hypothetical arbitrary limited choices like those.

Footfeathers said...

I'll take the perfect 100. I'd ride a mountain bike for two years and everyone would forget the deal I made, so I'd casually start running again.

3 miles does nothing for me (other than work out the kinks), so the 100 and done.

Larry Linux said...

Could we make it six miles a day and all trail? If that was one of the choices, I wouldn't even hesitate. Three miles is kind of lame, even for my standards.

Mark said...

I'm going to be 57 tomorrow and I've been running since I was about 12.
Back then it was three miles a day, every day, and there were no races to run.
I have my fingers crossed, hoping to see my name come up during the WS 100 lottery drawing, but if I had to choose, I'd gladly run three miles a day, every day for the rest of my life.
The circle would be complete.

@Terrysrunning said...

I'm with Tim(Footfeathers); I don't even hit my stride until well after 3 miles. I'm too slow to make 3 miles fun. I can't even get anywhere cool in 3 miles, all my fav spots are at least that far from the trailhead; which makes a long walk back if I'm past my 3 mile limit. One great race, then I'm a mountain biker.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Bussiere said...

This one is easy for me! Ten top 10 100 milers could not possible give me the same satisfaction as going out daily with my 16 year old son as he prepares for his first 1/2 Marathon. He is already planning his first marathon after completing a few long runs, and wants to hit the trails with me. My daughter is starting to get the running bug also. I would not want to miss out on any of this. Very awesome to see them develop into runners!

akabill said...

"and never run again." Like what? Pull a Scott McQueeney and die at the finish line? No thanks, I'll take the 3 miles a day.