After slipping and sliding on microspikes that didn’t have spikes, I got a pair of the real thing from Catskill Mountain Storehouse and took them out for a 10-mile spin in the Blackhead Range. The reward for the effort was amazing views in all directions, with recognizable landmarks 20, 30 and perhaps even 90 miles away.
Continue reading “Views from the Blackhead Range”
What use would a 21st century runner find in a 2,000-year old Hindu text?
In search of inspiration, I was recently reading the 19th century American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, interested in their ideas about nature and self-reliance. To my surprise, I discovered they were both fans of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture which I had read in college but largely forgotten.
After reading the Bhagavad Gita once again, I found its ideas intriguing, consistent with some of my ideas about training, and quite powerful: learn to still your mind, it advises, and you will discover that misery is unnecessary and action is effortless.
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The goal was The Nine, a 20-mile loop in New York’s Catskill Mountains that connects nine of the highest peaks, with the special challenge that four of the mountains have no trail, meaning you must bushwhack through the woods using map, compass, and/or GPS. I had completed The Nine before during the summer, so you might assume I’d feel pretty confident. But now it was winter. And the prospects of navigating over rugged terrain, contending with treacherous footing, braving the cold — this was a little daunting.
Continue reading “The Eight”
For contemporary runners, “training” has a narrow meaning. Query a runner, and you’ll hear about weekly mileage, long runs, track work. The media is full of training tips, like exercises to strengthen your hips or advice on how to swing your arms. Researchers study how training effects aerobic capacity and running economy. It’s all about speed and distance.
Could there be more to training than this?
That’s what I was wondering when one day I started reading about the Yurok Indians, for whom training (“hohkep”) involves not only running, but also battling the elements, overcoming fear, sweating, fasting, thirsting, going without sleep, and ultimately venturing into the wilderness in search of spiritual powers. For the Yuroks, training is meant not only to strengthen the body, but also to clarify thinking and focus the will. It’s a path to self-discipline, self-reliance, and the realization of life’s purpose. Now I wanted to know, what could we learn from them?
Continue reading “What does “training” mean to you?”
Sweet, cold, with a spicy dash of salt, strong enough to make your head spin, margaritas made from the special family recipe were a refreshing summer treat, and one glass was never enough…until I learned to look through the matrix and separate delusion from reality.
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To learn something new, take the path you took yesterday.
— John Burroughs
The week-long holiday break was time well spent with family, friends, and new acquaintances, relaxing, talking, celebrating, eating, drinking, hiking, and running.
And I was able to fit in one run that was a little longer than average and extra special: a 42-mile circumnavigation of the Northern Shawangunks, on roads that parallel and then cross over the mountains. To make life interesting, I brought no food or water.
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When running in the mountains, I’ve seen many footprints on the paths. Sometimes I’m reminded of people like John Burroughs, John Muir, and Henry David Thoreau, who wandered the forests during the 19th and early 20th century, experiencing nature as a source of beauty, strength, and inspiration. There are older tracks, too, for behind these figures lurks another spirit: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), the essayist, lecturer, poet, and father of the American Transcendentalist movement.
I hadn’t read Emerson since college, but one day it occurred to me that there could be a connection between “Transcendentalism” and the sport of ultra-running, if for no other reason that those who run longer distances than the conventional 26.2-mile marathon, are driven in part to do so by a desire to “transcend” perceived limits. I began to wonder, might ultra-runners be carrying Emerson’s banner, without even knowing it?
Continue reading “Transcending Emerson”