By Daven W. Oskvig
A thousand points of light poked through the envelope of a sky above as the erie dance of headlamps spread out for miles casting a dusty shadow beside the still waters of the canal. “Why do we do this to ourselves?”, my friend asked as I paced him over the last miles he would run that night. We cautiously explored the question knowing full well that the answer differs for each person and each circumstance. I had no ready reply as I glanced up and down the canal path in the inky darkness.
The Beast of Burden 25, 50, and 100 mile races offer a venue for those ready to probe such queries. It is virtually impossible to get lost on the 25 mile out-and-back crushed stone, pancake flat course. It has plentiful and easy access for support, generous cutoffs and pacer policies, and near constant interaction with others. While fast times are nearly a given, BoB is less about speed than offering many their first at distances they have only dared to mutter exploring. Even when the weather seems completely cooperative, the distances take their toll with plans having to be reassessed and redefined with each bridge one crosses beneath.
So why do we do this? Maybe to chase after the play we knew in childhood and adolescence with the joyful exhaustion that comes in its wake or maybe it is simply to KNOW, to learn those things about self and friends and family that can only arrive in the dead of the night. Whatever it might be even when the only word we can manage to our fellow pioneers in the dead of night is some neolithic-monosyllabic grunt, we know the quest is the same. We are all plumbing into some dark recesses of purpose and self.
We stood beside the cars, he having surrendered after 50. As the headlamps bobbed by us, we both looked up to the stars. He began pointing out the constellations and then a quiet silence fell … and only then did my answer come. Why? To chase the stars, to wish upon them, to dream … and sometimes, when we are lucky, to catch them.