Searching for extremes

Many times I’ve heard and got asked by people why someone would dare to climb the Everest, or run an ultra marathon in the desert, or do any kind of so called extreme adventure. It always lead to a comment that is inevitably bound to come, until of course, it comes:

Why would someone subject his/hers body to such a thing?
What a stupid way to die.

For them, I’d say, achieving these features [mostly] come down to pure humbleness. I explain…

The shear brutal size of the great Mount Everest, picture by Martin Jernberg.

To survive a climb to the top of the Everest you MUST follow Mother Nature’s rules, you are nothing. Once you are there, you play by Her rules. And this humble experience is what people are looking for. To remember that they can succeed but only if She allows them to, only if they respect Her. And if they fuck it up She won’t forgive it. You are dead! This is the real adrenaline rush. The fact that you have to have everything you can control under perfect conditions, the right moment, the speed, the precise force and only then you will increase your chances of succeeding, only if all other parts of the puzzle fit in perfectly, by no means it’s only about your side. If these circumstances don’t happen, it’s hasta la vista baby.

Yet one may still question the purpose of doing this knowing that the odds are stacked against you.

My own experience

Starting with “my own experience” might be a bit of an over statement, as I’ve been in the game of trail running for just about 2.5 years, so “my own experience” is not long enough and might not be the most exciting one. But from what I can tell, it’s a valid one.

The first time I ran over 10k was when Johannes Rummellhoff invited me to join him to run Tromsø Skyrace, of course, he was running the main race (55 km at the time) and I wouldn’t dare to do that with no experience whatsoever. So I signed up for the 23k event (now 28 km). The weekend after, I asked myself:

Can you run a half marathon with no training?

So I got my running shoes on and there I went to find the answer. I put myself through around 21.3 km — right there it was my first — and probably biggest mistake. No training, no experience, just went to put my body into misery. At the 15k mark I started having some discomfort in my left knee. I remember telling myself:

I think this is the kind of pain people feel when they run for that long…

No that is not the kind of pain people feel, as later I found out the hard way.

So, after knowing I could finish a half marathon I was more optimistic about finishing my race. I started some moderate running, 5–10k runs. But no compromise, just adding some mileage to my legs.

One day before the race, me, Hans Kristian and Johannes go for a short recon run, after it’s over I feel a discomfort in my knee.

Right before the race start. Me, Johannes and Hans Kristian.

Come the race day, it all begins well until I start the climb, the damn left knee starts to remind me that it’s there and it’s going to hurt. Mid distance, on the top of Tromsdalstinden mountain and my knee hurts like hell, I can barely bend it. I thought to myself — “game over” — but since I was half way I decided to go for the end, as I would have to walk back the same distance anyway. So there I am, going down the mountain in pain using my hands to help me going through the big rocks and steep descend.

As I reach this sort of plateau right after the sharp descend [about 16 km], I pause to catch my breath and check out my knee. I look around, no one in sight, I can only see the mountain behind me and the valley in front, all in this grandiose landscape. Staring at it, it hits me:

I’m nothing.
Look at yourself here, limping and all weak. Were you alone a couple centuries ago, you’d be easy prey. When it comes down to face beasts like this, who do you think you are?

I tell myself again:

I’m nothing.

That realisation was one the humblest experiences I’ve ever had. Realising I had no chance against Mother Nature’s almighty, whether a blizzard starts or rocks fall over my head, I would have no control over it. I had to position myself in the place I belonged, as a tiny bit of nothing that would just have to finish the race going through that trail.

So in retrospect, when I go to races, or see someone going through arduous paths they chose to take, I think, deep down, me, they, we, are all looking for that feeling of humbleness, where everything has to be in place and you feel part of the whole, no more, no less.

NOTE: I’ve changed the title of this article as it felt a too “click baity”.

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