Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Will To Live...and Ultrarunning

Here's yet another post about running along the Potomac River--specifically the C&O Canal towpath--from a great run a few weeks back. This one concerns dying before one's time, and the will to live.

Click to enlarge, ESC to return. This is a large limb from a sycamore tree.  You will notice that it still has its leaves.  Since as of this photo (early March) the new 2012 leaves are not yet out, these obviously are 2011 leaves.

My suspicion is that this limb broke off in the Halloween 2011 freak early snowstorm here in the northeast.  Many trees sustained serious damage as a heavy, wet snowfall clung to the leaves and branches, eventually snapping them off with the unaccustomed weight.  Normally, trees have shed their leaves naturally in the fall by the time any snow arrives, thus snow damage is usually avoided.  But not the fall of 2011.

What does this have to do with will to live?  Obviously I am anthropomorphizing here, but I like to think that this branch was not yet ready to die.  It still clings tenaciously to its leaves even though the rest of the leaves on the intact tree fell naturally months ago.

It's a vain hope, but I gotta admire the limb's pluck.

Of course there is a botanical explanation for this leaf-retention phenomenon, having to do with chemicals that normally act to sever leaves from their branches in the autumn, but I like my explanation better.

The link to Ultrarunning is that many of us--though reluctant to admit it--believe that the sport will improve our health and fitness, thereby extending our lives with additional years.

Maybe yes, maybe no.  The longevity issue is twofold: whether there are indeed additional years...but more importantly, whether those years are "quality" years inserted during our prime, or "junk" years just tacked on at the end when we're feeble and old anyway. 

But as above, the notion of additional quality years is a nice theory that I like to believe in. 


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