Mediocrity; a word that can spell a kind of death when there is still breathing, even as the living evacuates proceedings.
We are all guilty of such moments and times when this term intersects with our reality. We all want success in a given context, but are too often prone and unprepared to endure the fight. When such a mediocre existence is more final than fleeting, our song is silenced.
I don’t know about you, but give me finality even in a crushing defeat, than the almost imperceptible ebb and flow toward such a mundane existence, even as most will state their desire to live a life that pushes out the boundaries in any given context. Referencing the ‘context’ is vital, as it tends to be the ‘few’ who are celebrated, and if being successful is solely the domain of the rich and infamous, then most have no choice or chance. What a shameful existence!
However, if this is more about the you, living out your context to the fullest expression of human flourishing; then your life can be thick with living, as you squeeze; no puree, every possibility and potential.
The focus of this post is on one such individual.
I ran the first hundred miles with my legs,
the next ninety miles with my mind,
and I guess I’m running this last part with my head.
Welcome to the frame and words of ultramarathon runner, Dean Karnazes, offered to the curious reporter asking how he was able to complete the staggering… The Relay… a 199 mile ‘relay’ race… all by himself.
If these words have peaked your interest… and maybe blown your mind… then you will enjoy this ride, as I offer you some exhortational words from my very recent read, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an all-night runner.
In this autobiography, Karnazes documents his life journey that was filling time at a Bar for his 30th celebrations, but would very soon… as in, later that night… be transformed by a pursuit that would lead him to the very ends of the earth. Enough was enough. Run Forrest Run!
This is a man who has experienced what it means to push the impossible is nothing envelope, which has provided him an insight into what it means to really go after your dreams, making them reality.
Read his words:
Most dreams die a slow death. They’re conceived in a moment of passion, with the prospect of endless possibility, but often languish and are not pursued with the same heartfelt intensity as when first born. Slowly, subtly, a dream becomes elusive and ephemeral. People who’ve let their own dreams die become pessimists and cynics. They feel that the time and devotion spent on chasing their dreams were wasted. The emotional scars last forever. ‘It can’t be done,’ they’ll say, when you describe your dream, ‘You’ll never make it.’
Does this ring true for you?
Do you have a dream; maybe it’s still ‘that’ dream? Are you still pursuing it? Has time wearied this pursuit?
It is tough out there!
While time and despair can be deleterious to desire; Karnazes provides an insight into his gained from toil perspective, buying into a bigger vision and purpose for his dream and the outworking of the living of one’s life.
Reflecting after finishing his first 100 mile event, the Western States Endurance Race, he states the following:
Covering 100 miles on foot was more than a lesson in survival, it was an education in the grace of living. Running is a solo sport, but it was no longer about me anymore; I became almost irrelevant. My struggles were not about a single runner trying to finish this unfathomable challenge but about the greater ability of a human being to persevere against insurmountable odds. The many supporters who’d provided encouragement and strength along the way didn’t really care about me per se – hell, they didn’t even know who I was. What they cared about was that a person had taken the time to train, and sacrifice, and dedicate himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of a dream. It was a powerful message; I was just the host. And proud to be. Upholding my end of the commitment meant crossing the finish line, and I was now going to make damn sure that happened. For all of us.
And he did. This is a compelling narrative that was as traverse as his journey!
Question: Do we have a communal deficit issue? I believe so. We too very easily live separate lives, compartmentalised by an endless list of modern realities. Is the growing world of social media not a sign of our communal malnutrition?!
We need to return to a greater vision of human flourishing that understands the communal aspect as primary in making this more of a functional reality.
The Dean Karnazes jaunt on the running side was only getting started.
Soon another event would come to his attention, and the insanity would continue. This time it was, Badwater; a 135 mile tip-toe across Death Valley… in the middle of Summer… where temperatures are hot enough to cook an egg… literally!
Life is often not a Boysown account and Karnazes would meet his match, as mile 72 would be his last. The body literally said, ‘stop,’ and he would! Race over.
Reflecting on this disappointment, he would state the following:
During the long drive home with my family, there was ample time to reflect on the lessons from Badwater, and I eased up on myself. Yes, I had failed – but it had actually been a spectacular failure, gloriously disintegrating every aspect of my body and soul until I literally fell over in the dirt. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Ooooo, like that! Karnazes would experience running redemption the next year at Badwater!
Karnazes had the taste for it, with every success only encouraging more. Next would be the first ever Marathon to the South Pole!
After a drawn out process and no guarantee of safety or success, he would complete the journey, offering the following words in reflection:
… Any goal worth achieving involves an element of risk. Running a marathon to the bottom of the earth was clearly an extreme case, but the higher the risk, the grander the sense of satisfaction from accomplishing what you set out to do. We did it. And lived.
Not only the sense of adventure, but the purpose in the pain.
While suffering is not necessarily good in and of itself, it is an antidote to the self-absorption that fills many of our individual pursuits. Suffering breathes life into our humanity!
… People think I’m crazy to put myself through such torture, though I would argue otherwise. Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness. I’ve now come to believe that quite the opposite is the case. Dostoyevsky had it right: ‘Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.’ Never are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in. There is magic in misery. Just ask any runner.
Returning to where we started; we end our journey as he nears the end of, The Relay, when his heart was indeed getting him home; he would add these words:
Running into Santa Cruz, I was wholly fulfilled. Most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.
Is he correct? Are you answering from your experience? Can there be more?!
Karnezes would provide more witness to his brief as subsequent to the events in his narrative, he would also complete 50 Marathons in 50 states in 50 days. The sky is the limit!
If it only had stairs!
Running to such extremes will not be for everyone, but the principal that Dean Karnazes exemplifies certainly is.
Your life is there for the living, please don’t miss out; or let others miss out, on a moment of the ride… run… of your life!
Until Next Time
Main image via 2.bp.blogspot.com.