• Sunday, January 12, 2014
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Mud and dirt can be consumed accidentally during sports
and other outdoor activities. 
This has led to dysphemisms
 for poor-tasting food such as "tastes like dirt",
 based on the experience of getting mud, dirt, etc. in one's teeth.


"As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much mud.'"

It's bloody stupid to consider mud as some sort of life form. It's just that there is a surplus of the stuff at the moment and I can't help myself. We've had so much rain over Britain in the last six weeks that I'm starting to suffer some sort of Noah complex. In short, I'm getting twitchy. I dream of boat building.
I'm haunted by mud. I am essentially a trail runner and I don't so much feel stalked by mud than battered by it. It's not insidious, it's downright invasive.
To run in it is to be assaulted, fingered by cold tentacles, whipsplashed. You must impose yourself or it will reduce you to a lumpen, graceless object of derision. It is a life form that a trail runner needs to subjugate and tame, a slippery, cunning and beastly force and if you let your concentration wander it will bite you on the arse. You must dominate it and assert yourself. Make the bastard stuff submit. Let your feet be true.

Is it to much of a stretch to talk about having a mental and physical tussle with an inanimate life form?  God after all breathed life into the soil of the earth. If He could do it back in the day then why not now? Or did it ever go away? Perhaps this stuff is the sum of the Frankenstein off casts of Adam, lying in wait all this time. Seeking vindication. I think this thought has merit, it keeps us honest after all and is that not part of God's DNA?

Out damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much mud on him? 

Apologies to the purists for mangling Virgil and Shakespeare. Forgive me. I am seeking help I promise.

Darkness: how ultrarunning can strip away our emotional barriers


Here is a video.
It was shared with me by Jerry who shares some of my burdens. It spoke to him and it spoke to me. In fact I have watched it several times now. The scenery is lovely and the music well chosen but it is the words that carry the greatest weight. I know it sounds profane but there is a frightening and terrible beauty in the deepest blackness and there is a wellspring of creativity there.
This running video will speak to you if you like to think deeply and especially if you get depressed. If neither applies then I think it will still be worth watching.
I wrote to Jerry:
   Thank you so much for this. I'm going to watch it over and over until I've got every nuance the narrative contains..."it's exhausting work exploring the depths of our darkest emotions" There is so much that speaks to me. I've thought myself about the strange paradox of the black dog and the almost savage and destructive joy that it brings. Go well my friend

I've included the film-makers words below the film. They are far better than mine!

 Deciding to run an ultra for the first time is understandable. It's a big challenge. While the personal reasons underlying the decision might not be readily apparent, even to the runner, it's really not that difficult to communicate the essence of the challenge: to prove, to ourselves or others, that we have the fortitude to push through the limitations we once imagined, defy the odds and endure hardship.

Once the challenge has been met, signing up a second time is a different matter entirely. The repeat offender likely has a pre-disposition to binging. Or addiction. While by no means an inviolate law, there's no question that a large number of our fellow ultra runners have felt the symptoms of withdrawal and agitation after a big event. I find it unlikely that 10 to 20 hours of hormones coursing through our body leaves us with only DOMS to show for our efforts.

I love the feeling of strength, independence and fluid freedom I get from trail running and ultras. Yet the more events I run the more I come to fear the comedown. Knowing the Black Dog is waiting at the front gate for you is intimidating. Other than drugs and surrounding ourselves with loving distractions, often the only thing that helps us cope is going out for another run. Mind boggling and incredibly frustrating for an injured runner.
I ran the Northburn100 a few months ago, a 100mile race in the mountains of New Zealand. It was tough. I crossed the finish line after 34hrs, physically fine but emotionally desolate. The RD calls it a "look of Anguish". I'd say Anguish is too energetic. Thinking back on Northburn, and other gruelling Ultras I've run, I've became increasingly aware that this post-event emotional roller coaster is just as much a part of running Ultras as are the training, camaraderie, palate fatigue and physical endurance. Even when we smash the goals we set for ourselves, the feeling can be bittersweet.

It's exhausting work exploring the depths of our darkest emotions. When they're freshest, thoughts smash around our skulls like possessed plant equipment. We feel like there's a broken record playing up there, our thoughts playing some sick game of psycho-somatic Hide and Seek with our clenched and twisted guts. Coming out of an Ultra, it's safe to say we're fatigued. The exhaustion lingering from the event washes away our self-defences and this conscious scraping-back of the Soul further erodes our reserves allowing unbidden thoughts and feelings to threaten the already threadbare fabric of our sanity.

But what becomes of us if we shy away from the introspection? Does denial simply buy us time while these emotions ferment in our subconscious? Or am I being melodramatic? Maybe spending a day or two ignoring these things is just what they need -- dismissal, pure and simple. Then again, perhaps the real benefit of endurance sport isn't physical, but spiritual; that enduring the ceremony and imbibing the potion of hormones our body releases puts us into a state so receptive to self exploration that it would be damn near sacrilegious to ignore it. There's certainly been no shortage of writers, poets, artists and musicians who've found the Black Dog to be their greatest muse.

There are even a handful of groups around the peripheries of more mainstream cultures that have taken this metaphor literally. The Marathon monks of Mount Hiei are known to seek enlightenment through extreme ascetism and physical endurance in running. In their quest for enlightenment they will run 40km a day for a 100days before requesting permission to continue their quest for another 900 days, the whole project taking them 7 years.

The Lung-Gom-Pa runners of Tibet likewise achieve enlightenment and a connection with god through running as a form of meditation. While the connection between physical and spiritual is here quite apparent, there are countless other cultures that extol the virtues of endurance, fortitude and a tolerance for both adversity and hardship. While these may seem physical in nature, they are most definitely spiritual.

While I'm far too familiar with the darker end of our emotional spectrum to suggest that the Dog might be Man's Best Friend, rather than being a downside -- something to fear and dread -- perhaps the come-down should be appreciated, if not welcomed. As Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, The deeper that Sorrow carves into your being, the More Joy you can contain.

This is fine on George Clooney but on me it's just middle aged and surly.

I meet Annie at the agreed time and place. I am unshaven and grumpy. This is fine on George Clooney but on me it's just middle aged and surly. The other agreement we have, is to aim to run for a minimum of one hour. There is some fitful muttering about the route and the usual fiddling with technology and off we go.
Today is the day, marking the start of our training for a half marathon at the end of March. It is a benchmark run to assess where we are with our fitness so that we can hatch a decent training regimen. We are pros after all and we have the Lycra and sunnies to prove it. The run quickly turns into something very pleasant, the blue sky and bright sunshine is matched by some conversation that is bright but not blue. This is the way to run and train, the miles roll past amiably. Railway bridges are sandwiched between Hawkwood and Jubilee and we cover a variety of terrain. We greet other runners and some greet us back. We smile at geriatric dogs and their walkers. We run down a hill and up a hill and it is all very relaxed.
At the agreed splitting up point we split up and when I get home I shower and go to Caffe Nero for a piece of Coffee cake and a huge Latte. This probably negates a lot of the benefit of the run and further erodes my George Clooney aspirations.