A few days after I ran the Grand Canyon a friend and I were climbing at the gym when he asked me what I had learned. I’d learned that I needed to be better about eating and drinking, but that wasn’t what he meant. He meant the big picture.
He told me a story about basketball. When he was a freshman in high school he played on his school’s JV team and at the end of the season they invited a few JV players to practice with the Varsity team. While I don’t have any experience with team sports, I’d seen enough movies and TV shows about high school to know that this was probably a big deal. But, he said, the older boys were jerks. They were bigger and faster and kept passing the ball really hard to him and the other JV kids as they struggled to keep up. Then he realized, they weren’t passing the ball hard to be mean. Rather, that was the pace of the game. And once you get that, you don’t go back. You don’t go back to passing the ball slowly.
This is the only time a basketball story has ever made sense to me. Because here’s the thing… once you start pushing that limit of how far you can run, you can’t go back. I look at running differently since running Cerro Chirripo and R2R2R. I have more confidence and take trails I’m unfamiliar with, knowing that it really won’t matter if it ends up meaning I run further or up a steeper hill. I do it without even thinking. I sink into running now.
My imagination of what is possible has expanded. I remember one day last Fall I went for a long training run in Desolation Wilderness. It was probably a 25-mile day for me and I’d started at Eagle Falls Campground and run out to Lake Aloha and back. I was almost back to the trail head when I ran into a couple standing at an intersection, looking at their map. They stopped me and asked which lake I’d come from. (There are a lot of lakes in Desolation…) Lake Aloha. They looked back at their map. Then unfolded it further and then looked back at me. Oh…wow… they said, we just wanted to go to this one. I’d passed that one twice. It’s beautiful! You’ll love it. I pointed them in the right direction.
It’s totally possible to run far. And whatever your far is, it will be beautiful. So, go as far as you can. See all the lakes and mountains and trees and sunsets and sunrises between here and there. But, I can promise you, if you start to push the limits of how far you believe you can go, you’ll discover you can go further.