by Tory Scholz
If you know me, you may know who my spirit animal is. Her name is Jenn Shelton. My spirit connects with the perception of her free spirited approach to running and life. Years ago I read her saying that she “started running ultras to become a better person. I thought if you could run 100 miles you’d be in this Zen state. You’d be the Buddha, bringing peace and a smile to the world.” This resonated with me, and it is a large reason why I began and continue running long distances and partaking in (irresponsible) adventures.
Today I looked to the past and analyzed if I had in fact become a better person after my years exploring the world of ultrarunning. The conclusion was: No. Who I am, my character, my dreams and demons are all still there. I have not seen God on a long run. I have not discovered the meaning of life. I did not reach enlightenment as I crossed a finish line. And although I intended to learn about my deep dark self by embracing the suffering that occurs over mountains and miles, I am not convinced that my self discoveries are a result of this suffering. Who I was before becoming immersed in my ‘selfish habits’ is still who I am right now. I think the learning and growth that occurred over the past ten years is called ‘your 20s.’ No need to be an ultrarunner to learn about yourself.
Sometimes I wonder whether I am running toward something, or away from something. Perhaps I have been running toward becoming a better person, or running toward that sense of enlightenment or Zen state. Those who know me well, will gladly tell you that I was just as insane before running ultras as I am now.
Or perhaps I have been running away from my own demons. I prefer thinking that it is the former. Running away from things physically, literally, or figuratively, never works. Regardless, I have yet to outrun said demons. If anyone knows the distance required for fleeing demons, please share.
Today when I ‘faced the music’ on a friendship, it reminded me that I have not become a better person. I had not been a good friend. I was probably running instead. Have I become a better friend? Sister? Daughter over these past few years? Doubtful. And if I have, it is not due to ultrarunning. I still have just as much to grow, learn from, and develop as the next human. If I haven’t become a better person, then what have I been doing over these years? Well, a lot of running. Thinking about running. Talking about running. Adventuring. Challenging myself. Pushing limits. Seeing fascinating pieces of our land. Exploring mountains. Cannot say I am a better person because of it. If I want to become a better person, I ought to focus on exactly that – becoming a better person.
There are many spiritual and emotional reasons why I love running. However, attaching it to self worth is unsustainable. Just as attaching any religion, sport, person, or hobby to your self worth is. Purpose needs to come from within – not from an outside source. Today I learned that ultrarunning may not be making me a better human being – and that’s okay. I still love it. And I will continue to learn how to be a better person both inside and outside of running. I connect(ed) with Jenn Shelton on her reason for running long distances. Now I also find myself connecting with her upon reflection: “It didn’t work in my case. I’m the same old punk-ass as before, but there’s always hope.
Author’s website: www.motivus.ca