Shades of grey

Posted on December 15, 2012

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greyI’m sorry if this title drew you in with promises of slide-off-your-seat eroticism … that I shall leave to the brilliant and beautiful mind of EL James.

Rather this post is about the ever-increasing blurred lines that exist between hiking and fast-packing, running and exploring, expeditions and adventures. I’ve thought about this often and I wonder sometimes how to describe the sorts of races that have attracted me in the past.  Can you even call them races? Surely that would imply that the destination is the only true objective but in reality, it’s the journey that matters. All that matters.

There is simply no longer a well-defined line between racers and explorers.  Gone are the days when racers simply committed to structured training in order to compete in a single day event. And gone are the days when explorers only embarked on long self-supported journeys, sometimes following existing paths and sometimes, making their own. Gone too are the days when the road marathon was the ultimate in distance running and those who competed in them existed on an entirely different plane to today’s explorers, adventurers and mountaineers.

More and more, everyday pavement pounders are raising their personal bar and venturing into longer distances, mountain running and technical trails, often in extreme climates and at altitude. Why?  Perhaps for the powerful combination of the physical engagement of running along with the personal challenge and self-discovery that comes with such great plights.

Even when it comes to today’s training, today, the physical component is nothing but a single element that contributes towards overall success. Alongside, sit the mental component, the emotional toughness, the resistance to pain, the ability to optimally hydrate and fuel, the ability to remain self-supported, the nous to self-medicate and the art of pacing and resting, knowing when to push and when to pull. So many elements to consider with so few right or wrongs … rather, lots of shades of grey and the resulting need to trial by error.

An amazing adventurer / runner / cyclist and explorer I met during Racing the Planet Nepal last November was the California-based Jill Homer.  I remember to this day, my feelings of awe hearing about her phenomenal cycling expeditions. She’s recently set up a great blog called Half Past Done and it was reading her words that triggered this post. Half Past Done is a reference ‘to the plight of battered individuals who exhaust their reserves before they reach their goal. They’re already well-cooked, yet still far from finished. But that’s just it — they’re not done yet. That relentless drive in the face of something impossible is what it’s all about.’

So today, my thoughts go to all of us who have discovered these amazing adventures … and to those who have yet to do so. There exists a tight yet global community bursting with brilliant characters, ready to motivate and inspire, full of possibility and potential, eager to embrace what life throws at them. Every single player has a starring role on a stage that is the perfect metaphor for life. Hard lessons are sometimes learnt but the rewards are endless and there is simply no better route to discovering yourself and where you fit in, in this crazy yet magical world.

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