“THE LINE. Nothing on race day really matters until you reach The Line on the run. The Line is the point at which continuing becomes very, very difficult. You define success as simply not slowing down at The Line. EVERYTHING before The Line is simply about creating conditions for success for when the Line comes to you.”
My ultra-inspiring ultrarunning friend and coach for my upcoming 100 miler, Olga King, sent me the quote above before a recent race. I have since given it a lot of thought & have decided it applies to my Life, not just my running and racing life. Like many of the running lessons I have picked up during my two short years of participating in trail races at distances longer than 26.2 miles, this gem fits nicely into my overflowing collection of recipes for good living.
This quote helps me to understand why I love a nice hard ego-crushing trail race. Why I chose a goal for myself this year which I know will be very, very difficult. I crave The Line – that point at which I am able to truly test myself in the most elemental sense & catch a glimpse of what I am capable of.
It’s not as though I have never been up against real-life “Lines”. We all have. My 20s presented me with line after line of emotional challenges. I tripped and crumbled every time I met The Line. During my 30s, my personal struggles had me cowering at The Line and then escaping by way of addiction.
These days, I choose to define my own success, self-worth, satisfaction and true inner peace by my attitude & behavior when I reach each of life’s Lines. I have crumbled and cowered enough. Now, when I see The Line coming my way, I do my best to prepare: I mentally review how hard I have trained to get here, I ensure I am well-fueled and hydrated, I stay loose & calm and ready for sudden changes in terrain. As with The Line in life….I review my mistakes and fuck-ups – I will never forget them. I care for my mind and my body – ultimately I am the only one who can. I breathe and stay present – I can only be here, now.
My Line may be unrecognizable to you. One person’s Line may rest neatly within another’s comfort zone. Repeated encounters with your own Line can lead to wonderful self-knowledge. It may take years of graceless stumbling to realize that there is beauty at The Line and joy beyond it.
As I scour ultrarunning blogs and pick runners’ brains for tips & tricks & words of wisdom, one of the most solid pieces of advice I have come across is this: “Address problems before they are problems.” Again, the simplicity of this as it relates to running 100 miles seems like a no-brainer. I imagine this 100 mile journey as a condensed life, with all the highs & lows and crazy unknowns thrown my way, testing me again & again. The message here seems to be one of awareness & self-knowledge: Listen to your body. Eat. Slow down if you need to. Drink before you are dying of thirst. Apply sunscreen before heading up that exposed ridge. Or: speak your mind before a worry becomes an overwhelming anxiety, address a relationship conflict before misunderstandings forever damage the bond, ask for clarity if your loved one’s behavior confuses or scares you. Get honest with yourself before your destructive habits derail you.
Each day is an opportunity to listen, grow, strengthen our resolve & continue to “create conditions for success” when we meet The Line. I am consistently amazed and inspired by the ultrarunning community and the vivid examples I see over & over again, of incredibly strong individuals blazing right through their own personal Lines.