Since I’ve spent so much time riding in the past couple of weeks, this old column has been on my mind.
Believe it or not, the human machine can equal the power of a Harley.
Until I discovered running, I had only two passions in life: music and motorcycles. Each fueled the other, and employment in one usually meant greater opportunities to pursue the other.
For many years, this combination was perfect – I worked long enough as a freelance musician to build a financial base, then rode long enough to need the next gig.
Maintaining the balance between time and money was tricky, but with care and a willingness to consume nothing more than peanut butter and beer, it was possible.
Most of my friends didn’t understand my consuming passion for motorcycles. It wasn’t my love of bikes that astounded them; it was my intense need to ride. As I tried to explain to them, riding wasn’t about transportation. For me, riding was about transformation. Watching the world pass beneath my feet stirred my spirit. The blur of the broken white line that ran down the center of the old U.S. highways was completely hypnotic. A classic (and terminal) case of “white line fever.”
Then one day I discovered that same feeling, the same sense of moving over and through the world, the instant I laced on a pair of running shoes and felt the asphalt under my feet. I had no idea that moving slowly across the ground would feel as satisfying as moving fast on a bike. But it did. The motion, not the rate of speed, was what felt so good.
This must be why I can’t remember ever having a bad ride – or a bad run. As a runner and a biker, I’ve been hotter, colder, wetter, and more tired than I’ve ever wanted to be. I’ve been ready to stop hours before I could. I’ve ridden roads and run courses that I swear I’ll never travel again. But none of these times were bad.
I’m not really sure how they could be bad. I suppose if comfort is your sole criterion for happiness, then being soaked to the skin and knowing you still have 200 miles to ride or 10 miles to run would be bad. If being so cold you can barely grip the handlebars or so hot you can feel your brain turning to soufflé makes you unhappy, then you may have had some bad rides or runs. But not me.
Countless stories testify to the limitless physical reserves of the human body. Men and women routinely endure hardships that make the most difficult run seem like a walk in the park.
As runners, we have the extraordinary capacity to detach ourselves from the discomfort we feel. At extreme levels, this can almost become schizophrenic: We tell ourselves that we should stop what we’re doing, yet we continue to enjoy every minute of it.
But running is certainly not all about extremes. Somewhere between those runs that tax our reserves and those that are simply too easy are the countless runs that are just right. These are the runs when we’ve read our bodies and spirits accurately, and have found the place where we can simply go along for the ride. It’s in that place where we catch the fever. And, take it from me: Once you’ve caught the fever, and felt the heat of that passion, there is no cure.
I’m not sure exactly when liking to run became longing to run, when wanting to run became needing to run. I only know that, as there once were roads that had to be ridden, there are now roads and trails and courses that must be run. There are miles and moments and memories that only converge when the shoe strikes the ground. And, in that white-hot instant, the world makes sense.
Waddle on, friends.
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