Friday, December 2, 2011

Milepost 29…and Ultrarunning

A couple of years ago, before Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 3-year old human being), I fell asleep while driving along Interstate 81 in southern PA.  Near Milepost 29, I ran off the southbound lanes onto the right shoulder, obliquely hitting and grinding to a stop along the guard rail.  My car was totaled, but there were no injuries to me nor any effect on anyone else, so it was a benign outcome to what could have been a tragic circumstance.

A couple of weeks ago I saw in the local paper that another vehicle had run off I-81 at Milepost 29.  In viewing the site, I saw where the two impact points were less than 100' apart. 

Unfortunately, in the latter accident, the angle of impact was much more acute (i.e., more perpendicular to the guard rail), so the vehicle plowed through and/or over the guard rail where a few feet down the embankment it was abruptly stopped cold by impacting a tree.  Of the three occupants, one died right there; another barely clings to life today; and the third sustained non-life threatening injuries and will survive.

I’m not claiming any special recognition here; any one of us could cite a parallel example from their personal experience where tragedy was narrowly averted by the luck of the draw.  The law of averages can both smile and frown upon us, rather randomly. 

The point is simply acknowledging another demonstration of the fragility of life.

Literally, any moment, any breath, any heartbeat could be our last (and, like it or not, that will be our fate, sooner or later).  All of us have likely seen the inspirational slogan that life is not measured by how many breaths we take, but by how many moments take our breath away.

Ultrarunning neatly fits that bill, replenishing our psyches via time spent alone--or with like-minded souls--in nature.  We recharge when we are being what the late Dr. George Sheehan referred to as “a good animal,” using our bodies efficiently and purposefully in the pursuit of physical and mental perfection out on our beloved trails. 

Being a good animal--fit, alert, aware--opens the doors for the mental enlightenment that can only come through physical challenge.  The heart revs up the mind, and in so doing we come closer to perfection than the sedentary will ever know.


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