Thursday, October 7, 2010

WWII...and Ultrarunning

(Image credit here

The Writer's Almanac for 5 Oct was sobering.  From the poem "Graduates of Western Military Academy" by George Bilgere, here's a excerpt.  Sure, it's poetry, and as I always say, most people can't hit that DELETE key fast enough.  But please give this one a try and click thru the Writer's Almanac link above:

One day, as this friend of my father, Paul
was flying over Asia,
he vaporized a major Japanese city.


But somehow, all my father got to do later on
was run his own car dealership. A big one,
but still. While Paul
got to blow up Japan. My father
ushered in the latest models.
Paul ushered in the Atomic Age.
It seems unfair, but there you are.

My father was a WWII vet, but missed out on combat, a fact he always seemed to regret.  He had 2 brothers who did see combat; one turned out normal.  But the eldest brother, a paratrooper on D-Day, was dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy to cause havoc prior to and during the invasion.  All brothers survived, but the eldest never was the same mentally afterwards.

In contrast to all that, my life has been remarkably safe.  Now--I am not suggesting that Ultrarunning and WWII are equivalent.  No way.  But as I've posted before on why we run, there are parallels in that both involve intense experiences;  the key obvious difference being that Ultrarunning is voluntary and uplifting, while war is involuntary and destructive. 

Let me repro a couple of my previous words here since that's where my mind again went to after reading the poem above. 

This post is simply a plug for using the vehicle of a race to go to a place deep within yourself, a place on the edge where the vast mass of humanity never goes, and sadly, never even suspects is there. And so the measure of success in a race is not necessarily the time showing on the clock, or the distance run, the position placed, the medals, the ribbons, the certificates, or the camaraderie, fine as all those things may be.

No, the true measure of success in a race is whether you did your best, and in giving your best, did you somehow approach that edge? Did you flirt with that shadowy realm of total intensity, where vicariousness was abandoned for immersion? Did you somehow sense that survival is not merely an abstract concept rendered quaintly obsolete by the veneer of civilization?

That is why I run.  And my hat remains off for my father and uncles and father-in-law and short, to all the vets, living and dead, who did their duty.


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