By: Mike Polansky, President – Greater Long Island Running Club
I was stunned and appalled when I learned that officials at Death Valley National Park have closed down all races, including the famous 2014 135 Mile Ultramarathon from Badwater to the Mount Whitney Portal and other endurance events out of concern for the safety of the participants.
I was never anywhere near physically able to attempt the Badwater 135 myself (my choice, not the choice of some US Government pinhead who wouldn’t know an ultramarathon from a cocker spaniel), but I did participate in the 1999 Badwater 135, crewing and pacing for my good buddy Nick Palazzo, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The folks who attempted this event were the most dedicated and determined people I have ever met…Nick included. They went through some rough spots along the way (DEFINITELY my buddy Nick included!!!), but it had to have been worth it for the sense of accomplishment that I could only share in some small part with Nick and the others that year.
Not everyone who entered made it through the course; some failed. Some failed that year and made it on their next try. Some tried and tried again, but never made it. All this reminds me of what is perhaps the most famous speech of one of my heroes, Teddy Roosevelt, who said
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 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.
I don’t want Nanny in Washington telling me what I can try to accomplish and what I can’t. I am a responsible adult who is fully capable of deciding what risks to take and what risks not to take, This nation was built on the strength of the risk takers. We should applaud those who continue to go the extra mile, to take the extra chance to work for something worth achieving. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul,” notwithstanding what the naysayers in Washington and elsewhere might say.
By the way, although Badwater was beyond my skill and endurance, I have completed the Death Valley Marathon (a mere 26.2 miles, nowhere near the 135 miles of the Badwater Run) with a bunch of my GLIRC buddies. It sounds like that one is dead as well for the present, and that too is a real shame.
See you on the roads and trails (but obviously not those of Death Valley National Park)!
Mike Polansky, President
Greater Long Island Running Club