There's Gotta Be Another Way

I drove from Durango to Silverton this morning, which is like an hour’s drive through some really spectacular mountains. I came up here to talk with Charlie Thorn, who was one of the founders of Hardrock. Lately I’ve been interested in how Hardrock has created and maintained its unique spirit and sense of community, to the extent that I’ve started reaching out to people to ask them about it. Last week Dale Garland sat down with me and told me all kinds of interesting facts, and this week Charlie Thorn agreed to give me some of his time. So here I am.

Because of the fact that the road to Silverton passes through some glorious mountain scenery, I was forced to face the fact that I have missed this entire summer of mountain running. When my leg was sore after the Lake Sonoma 50 in April, I never would have dreamed that I would basically lose my entire running season. But that’s what happened, and to say that this has been frustrating would be an understatement. I have dealt with a genuine existential crisis this year, trying to understand how something so simple as not being able to run could completely undermine my sense of self-worth. I’ve been forced to accept that despite my myriad interests, I am a pretty one-dimensional person. I recognized this while injured two years ago but I never fixed it. I just fixed the injury. Now I’m injured again and it’s time I fixed my personality instead.

But coming into the high country today made me sad, not angry, and it was not just because I can’t go for a long mountain run. I realized today that I almost completely forgot about the fact that running is only one way to experience the outdoors. My pattern while injured has always been to retreat into a sort of hibernation; to essentially live my normal life but without running. But I have built my life around running to such a degree that all my trips and nearly all my time outdoors (especially in wild places) is passed in some running capacity. I don’t take regular walks. I bike only occasionally. I’ve been rock climbing more than usual, but even that is mostly just in the morning. As a result, I’ve spent an embarrassingly-large proportion of my summer indoors. And you can probably understand why that would make me sad this morning as I came over the passes and remembered all the experiences and emotions these places stir in me.

So my goal now is to do much more than just recover physically. I hope to be able to run again, but it is now much more important to me to build a life that doesn’t rely so much on one act for fulfillment. Running is a gift that can be taken from us at any time, and that is an incredible liability if we don’t create full lives that draw from many different realms for meaning. This thought process has in fact helped me to realize that what has kept me in the running world since high school is the community, not just the act itself. I think that I would run if I had nobody to share it with, but it would never have become so important to me. The good people in this sport are what give it value.

To that end, my new goal is to connect with people more and on a much deeper level than I have in the past. One of the great things about mountain running is that it enables people to have challenging, powerful, and memorable experiences in wild places. In other words, mountain running facilitates adventure. And adventure is fun to hear about, so my goal is to start learning about some of the adventures that people have had in this sport and then to write them down. I like telling stories, and writing is a good excuse to go places and meet people. It helps me to break down social barriers and learn about other ways of life, and with practice I hope that maybe I’ll be able to convey the things I learn on paper. Maybe.

I’ll do my best. Why are you reading about all my bitching anyway? You should probably go for a run.

Or just a walk. I’m learning that those are often just as satisfying. The outdoors are there for everyone.