Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

My post in the GVRAT Facebook group after finishing the out n back on May 27:

     My long march across vTennessee and back is over: 2000K or rather 1270 miles in 27 days is done. Thank you to Lazarus Lake, Steve Durbin, and #badmike for putting this together and challenging us to put forth our best effort. Thank you also to Vincent Antunez from Trail Toes Anti-Friction Foot and Body Products, Truxton Spangler, and Bill Henderson for their support. I could not have been successful without your help. Thank you also, to everyone who sent me text messages, Facebook messages, and comments on Facebook and Instagram. I even received a few post cards. Thank you.
     I am happy that this carnival ride is over. But I’m also sad. I think sadness is a natural feeling when things end. At the end of a movie, a book, a relationship, at the end of a period of your life which you have moved on from. But, with a new thing, a new beginning, there is also hope. Hope for something better, or at least more, and an expectation of happiness. We have to remember what Andy wrote in the letter to Red, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” During my runs I tried to keep in mind thoughts from folks like Laz, “…and my hope for each one of you is that you find something in yourself, you never thought possible.” From Ken, “You can do more than you think you can. You are stronger than you think you are.” And from Joe, “Just do the damned thing.”
     Like many of us, we signed up for this GVRAT 1000K virtual race because our goal races have all been cancelled due to COVID-19. Races like UTMB, Hardrock, Western States, among countless others. Me personally, I had ambitious plans in July to run the Val d’Aran and Ronda dels Cims 100 mile mountain races in the Pyrenees and run with the bulls in Pamplona. In August I was all set to travel to Chamonix. To take part in UTMB Petite Trotte à Léon (PTL) with two friends, a Canadian and a Frenchman. But all of those events were cancelled. The last few years I have taken as long as four weeks to go on pilgrimage routes in Spain, Italy, and Texas but due to travel restrictions I felt that pilgrimage walks in Brazil, Portugal, or Ireland would also be out of reach. At the beginning, my goal for GVRAT was to finish the 1270 miles, the out and back, in the month of May. A lofty goal, foolish even, which I was not sure I would be able to meet. This time running locally became for me an internal pilgrimage, or kaihogyo. A kaihogyo of the heart, of the mind, a kaihogyo of the soul. Mile by mile, day by day, running, reflecting, projecting.
     For those in the event who have more miles in front of them than behind them, don’t despair. Be patient and put your miles in. Challenge yourself each day to do your best. Adopt the John Grady Cole mindset, stick and don’t quit. Is it raining? Stick and don’t quit. Your feet hurt, you’re tired, the damned dog knocked the pancake batter bowl out of your hands? Stick and don’t quit. Your partner is going through a tough time and you don’t feel loved? Stick and don’t quit. Just keep sticking to your goal to cross vTennessee on foot. You’ll make it. Take heart in the fact that when you step out the door each day, press start on your Garmin, and wait for it to pick up satellites, you are becoming more human. The distinctive human trait is conscious free will. And by choosing to go out and work toward your goal, among all the other choices you could have made, you are connecting with all of humanity over the long arc of history. You have this opportunity to contemplate life’s big questions everyone has asked, “Who am I? How do I know? And What do I value?” You have this opportunity to connect with all persons throughout our respective national histories, our respective religions, our poets, and the characters of our national epic literature -- fiction or non-fiction.
     You can sail to Troy with Helen and Paris. Be with brash Achilles as he chooses immortal fame over long life. With Cesar crossing the Rubicon, alea iacta est. With Jesus at Gethsemane. In Roncevaux we can sing La Chanson de Roland. With the Light Brigade in Crimea. With Davy Crockett when he told the legislature, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” We can dream with Dr. King, become the masters of our fate with Mandela, and find our meaning with Frankl. Maybe even with Cpt. Woodrow F. Call driving a herd of cattle to Montana. Once we are done with this crossing, we can return to our respective homes, be among our people, and go to our place. Maybe a place like Lonesome Dove. We’ll sit on the porch with Augustus McCrae and spin the yarn until late in the night and tell our stories of Tennessee. How we stopped in Memphis and saw the Legendary Dale Watson and his Lonestars. And how we knew, when he told us, “honky tonkers don’t cry,” he was lying. How we slept on the floor of the washeteria in Wartrace after paying our respects to Strolling Jim. How we stopped at Jan’s house in Knoxville and she had dumplings on the stove for us. When we stopped at Bill’s mammas house, across from Tusculum University, and ate her famous cornbread. We’ll turn in, long after the oil in our lamp burns out. We won’t have to worry about Pedro Flores or The Comanche. Finally, we can rest.

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