A VOL-STATE PHILOSOPHY FROM A ’47 ROADSTER

Posted: August 6, 2017 by coachwestbrook in Articles, Daily Runs & Reflections

A VOL-STATE PHILOSOPHY FROM A ’47 ROADSTER

    Philosophy seems to have a variety of meaning to a lot of people.  I think for most, it is the general beliefs, attitudes, and concepts of the individual.  For some, it could be summed up as a pursuit of wisdom.  Or, in general, it is a search for understanding values and answering the question of, “What is real?”

    Personally, I tend to lean toward a definition espoused by Dagobert D. Runes.  That would be “philosophy is the search for the indefinable.”  That leaves things wide open and, more or less, a mess.

    I think everyone is a philosopher whether they realize it or not.  That does not mean that we all sit around “thinking and meditating” through life.  If we did that, normal life would kind of kick us in our flabby ass.  The French philosopher, Rene Descartes, stated, “I think, therefore, I am.”  We all think.  So, we exist.  We are real.  But, what else is real?

    After the running boom got into high gear, it has been said that our running for distance is the western world’s form of meditation.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

    The Vol-State Road Race is indeed a distance run.  It is real.  The 314 miles gives one plenty of time to meditate, plenty of time to think, plenty of time to become a zombie.  What one thinks about on the way to The Rock is as varied as differing personalities in the race.  And, all those different personalities have different goals, different attitudes about the race, different racing plans (with some, the plan is to have no plan…which is a plan), and different levels of competitiveness.  While traversing the Vol-State course, everything can change and usually does. 

    It is interesting to talk to other runners during the race.  After some chit-chat, each one usually gives an indication of their philosophy about this thing to each other…whether the “other” wanted to hear it or not.  They tell each other their goals, their racing strategy (plan), their problems, how they feel at present, and what they are planning in the immediate future…“immediate” meaning in the next mile or two.  If one listens carefully, one can tell a lot about the runner doing the talking.  And, some will talk and talk and talk to the point that you would wish that they would take a break…or, you fake some excuse to take a break in order to return to some semblance of silence.  A “restroom” break usually does the job quite well…even though, women tend to wait on each other, so another strategy might have to be hatched.

    A runner or walker in Vol-State will come to the point that they are staring eyeball to eyeball at themselves.  We begin to see who we really are, beginning to answer “What is real?” on a personal level.  What we find out can be exhilarating, or, heaven forbid, depressing.  It’s hard to escape reality when our bones hurt, we have been soaked with sweat for most of the day, we’re thirsty, we’re hungry, we’re tired, and there’s no end in sight.  We see a fellow runner and hope we do not look that bad…but, we do, or worse.

    Spending a lot of miles alone on the road can be mind-opening experience.  It is when some questions are answered.  Questions such as, “Why is running important to me?” Or, you find out it isn’t as important as you thought it was.  “What are my goals in running?”  Or, right now, after that 33rd plus mile for the day…your goal is to find a place to rest.  “Is this really worth all I’m going through?”  Or, this chafing is rubbing me the wrong way.  

    Many questions asked, many questions answered.  There is truth in the distance.  As stated in the X-Files, “The truth is out there.”  Way, way out there, probably beyond forty miles.  At that point, if you’re not a zombie, you can face it.  Zombies are the walking dead, and the dead are out of the race.

    We all come to the ferry from different backgrounds and are melded in one common pursuit, getting to The Rock.  We are more alike than different.  We all share some characteristics such as strength, commitment, toughness, endurance, dedication, focus, fitness, as well as, fatigue, stink, dirty, uncoordinated at times, forgetfulness, hallucinations, impaired speech, and general insanity.  But, we are all an athletic event of one.  The most important thing about Vol-State is how “we” do in the race.  How does our finish compare to our previous finishes.  Down deep, it is a matter of survival.  It is our own personal adventure.

    We may change because of the Vol-State experience.  Some of us are in the “one and done” school of experience.  Others of us keep coming back for more.  Obviously, we like what we experience, what we feel.  We return for more or different changes in our psyche.  Or, we just reinforce changes we have already experienced in previous Vol-States. 

    Race director, Laz, understands the intricacies of change and experience in the distance of the race.  He understands and respects what the race throws at the individual.  (He doesn’t care, he just understands and respects.)  His creation gives the ultrarunner the opportunity to have this great experience.  We have the opportunity to accept a grand challenge.  In doing so, we learn about ourselves, the world, people, and reality. 

    The learning from the experience is itself reality.

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“There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.”

                                                                Kristin Armstrong, author and runner

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Richard Westbrook

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