Adversity in Perspective

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There are few real adversities to contend with when running trails. Running the trails and racing with others presents challenges and setbacks, but it’s what we do for fun. But life outside of running can be fraught with all sorts of real adversities.

What we experience when we’re running is self-imposed for the most part and we can stop or make adjustments almost any time that we want to. Real adversity is having your car break down on you in a dangerous area where there’s no cell coverage or being fired from your job three days before pay day, when you’re broke and up to your ears in debt. Adversity is coming home and finding that your wife or girlfriend has left you and taken everything that wasn’t yours, which means you got nuthin’ because you had very little before.

Adversity is finding you have incurable cancer or dealing with or overcoming something you can’t quit, sumthin’ that’s taking you down and that you didn’t exactly bargain for but you’re confronted with and you’ve got to beat.

When you run as we tend to do in this extreme sport we have plenty of serious challenges. It’s not the course, the conditions or the competition that matters most, it’s the mind-set that counts. Keeping the right attitude and perspective on it all is unquestionably the hardest thing to do when in the midst of the battle, sometimes beforehand and afterward as well.

There’s usually a waiver we have to sign, a disclaimer of sorts that’s to be read and understood, before the events in which we intend to engage. A note of caution that reveals or at least attempts to explain some, if not most, of the hazards and pitfalls that one might encounter while engaged in the pursuit of a finish at a trail race. We can decide before ever signing the dotted line and spending that hard earned cash, whether it’s a challenge we want to meet or not.

What can’t be counted upon is exactly how we’ll react, how we may, or may not, respond on a given day to whatever situation may arise or seem to occur (sometimes it’s all just in our heads how bad it really is). The course doesn’t play favorites, it doesn’t care who we are or how hard we’ve trained – it treats everyone the same, it’s just miles and miles of whatever.

But running can be the best elixir for taking your mind off of some of life’s real adversities. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own quirks, its downside. Yeah I guess we could break something while in the commission of the act and then that would be real adversity experienced during a run, at an event, but that would be the same no matter when or where it happened. Sure you could have that rare bear or cat encounter on the trail, you could get chased off the course by lightning strikes, that would be adversity, stuff sometimes happens.

But throwing up, getting off course, exhaustion, being over-heated or hypothermic, those are all rites of passage and aren’t real adversity, those are situations to be handled. When they occur think of them as purging our system, or like bonus miles added to the run or race. Experiencing and facing down these “issues” are actually why you are out there in the first place.

Drop the negative concept, this is self-imposed abuse, we always have a choice. We could be the ones serving up the soup to the cold exhausted runner, or we could be home watching reruns of Law & Order. We didn’t have to be the one retching, possibly in the light of day, and being carted off the field of play with the wrist band removed.

It’s something to keep in mind the next time you’re out there complaining about the weather, your stomach, the whip cracking of your pacer or the sadistic tendencies of the race director when it comes to setting the cutoffs and designing the course.

It’s not real adversity, and if you don’t mind – it don’t matter!

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About Author

Errol "Rocket" Jones is a veteran ultrarunner of 34 years, having participated in over 200 ultras dating back to 1981. Jones completed ultrarunning’s Grand Slam in 1998 and is a 3-time finisher of Badwater. He is also Co-Race Director of the Bear 100 and the Quad Dipsea, and serves as indentured servant at the Miwok and Lake Sonoma ultras.

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