December 31, 2018
Happy New Year - Early Bird Signup. Gotta start the New Year with a goal!
Draft race poster for 2019. The Ultras have not yet been permitted, but poster boy and two-time TBA Corey Hardy has....I'm not sure for what, but he's doing it.
Happy New Year!
I, for one, am ready to say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019. A New Year means a new start for pretty much everything. It's fitting that my first chapter of the Project Marathon book is titled Decide. I've published the first draft below. I hope you read it. I hope it makes you decide to do something truly cool in 2019. The sky is not the limit. It's a lot further out than that.
Below this chapter, there are signup links for all of the GreaterYellowstone Adventure Series races. The Ultras have not yet been permitted, but the review is in process. Fingers Crossed! Those should be some truly kick-ass ultras.
Eric Huff is right that the real challenge is getting to the starting line. Keep reading and then you'll find that at least signing up is really quite easy. If you do so in the next three days, it's also quite a bit cheaper.
Enjoy. Do something fabulous in 2019.
"The real challenge is getting to the starting line. Actually running the marathon is the easy part."
Two-time winner of the Madison Marathon
Four time Madison Trifecta TBA champion
Space. The final frontier. To go where no one has gone before. I'm actually not a Trekkie so I don't really know the words, but I do know the spirit.
It's a spirit that has permeated most cultures, and most definitely Hollywood movies. Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, The Martian, and others were all about people venturing off into the unknown. Just going. Attempting to do something, often for the first time, where it could all go to shit without much warning. But, they do it anyway.
How can this not resonate with athletes, marathoners, and race directors? Whether you toe the line or scratch the starting line in the dirt for those who do, it's all a leap forward into the mostly unknown.
But how does someone decide to do this? How do you go from "thinking about" doing something hard to actually doing it? What about the move from not even thinking about doing something hard to "thinking about" it? To really decide to put a challenge in front of you without having identified what the challenge is. Deciding to change your destiny rather than to just let things go along same old same old.
Which is the bigger leap? Going from not thinking at all to "thinking about something" or from "thinking about something" to actually doing it?
I've lived and worked for nearly 25 years of my post-college life in developing countries. Starting as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural village in the Philippines when I was just 23, I have witnessed poverty up close. Like real poverty - the kind where there is not enough food, no money for medicine, and living one accident away from losing everything, everything ~ including the life of a child.
I've also witnessed a spirit among poor people that is sometimes hard to find in developed countries. Poor people are rarely apathetic. They are almost never lazy. They have dreams and are willing to work so hard to make sure their kids won't have to repeat their lives. At this writing (December 2018), there are Central and South American families, teenagers on their own, and mothers carrying babies still in diapers while holding the hands of toddlers. They are walking north, probably a marathon distance a day, to do what they can for their children and siblings. They, and so many others like them from countries all around the world, have already decided what they will do with their lives. They are seeking to change their destiny and are willing to die in their attempt to do so.
To me, a more severe poverty is one of apathy, aimlessness, and not giving a shit about much of anything. Day One is the same as Day Two and there's no expectation that Day Five or even Day 50 is going to be any different. Personally, I'd rather be Third World poor.
The Central American refugees, like those from Syria, Yemen, and way too many countries in the world, have too few choices. That's where the real poverty part rears up and hobbles those seeking to change their destiny. The verb 'to decide' has already become a noun. The decision has been made and now they are doing everything they can to make it happen.
And of those who aren't forced to? Who have unencumbered free will along with enough to eat and a roof over their heads? What of them? Perhaps there is comfort in knowing that Day 50 is the same as Day Five and that Day 100 will be recognizable if not exactly the same. Fortunately, most of us don't think that way. We decide to make our destiny. Thus, to revert to space movies as the model, we eat shit potatoes (The Martian), pull Hal's plugs before he can pull ours (2001: A Space Odyssey), and the true story of test pilots who climb into jets and rockets that are not yet tested or safe and where the casualty rate is 25 percent of the test pilot workforce (The Right Stuff). We do it because that's just the way most of us are made.
Crazy Beautiful Destiny Changing Ideas
One of my favorite movies, space genre or otherwise, is Apollo 13. This is mostly because of just two lines of dialogue. It's when astronaut Jim Lovell, played by Tom Hanks, and his wife are looking up at the moon on the same night that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had walked on it. It's a clear night with a full moon and Lovell can block the view of the moon with an outstretched arm and just his thumb as he sights down the length of his arm with one eye closed. Back and forth, back and forth, the moon appears and disappears as he moves his thumb. Lovell muses about the new age they live in now that someone has actually walked on the moon. Then, he said, "It's not a miracle. We just decided to go."
Just decide to go. In October 2016, the New York Times published a piece titled, 'How To Run Across The Country Faster Than Anyone.' That's a pretty catchy title. It would hook most any race director and I'm sure a bunch of runners as well. The lead sentence alone gets you (or at least it did me) - 'It all started over a midmorning beer.' Just that sentence kinda makes you want to go for a run or have a beer and ideally both.
The story was about a guy, Pete Kostelnick, who had just won an incredibly difficult endurance race and was chilling with a friend over a beer. He then told his friend that he was going to try and break the record for running across America. The record was 46 days, eight hours, and 46 minutes and it was set in 1980. The writer of the story is a runner and a friend of Kostelnick. For a few days, he took part in the journey and got an exclusive to a crazy beautiful idea.
I wonder if anyone does these enormous feats of crazy beautiful on their own. This guy didn't. Kostelnick had an amazing crew to go along with his drive and talent. Not everyone has a crew though. Just ask the Central American refugees. Not everyone has talent either, but we still see acts of crazy beautiful all the time. Sometimes it's driven by very, very smart people who figure out how to take three men on a rocket ship to the moon, send two of them from the ship down to the surface of the moon to romp around a bit, and then bring the whole crew back to earth. Then there are others who just decide that they are going to try and break the record for running across America and so they give it a shot. No, it doesn't take a rocket scientist's brains to pull it off, but it does take something crazy beautiful. And, in order to get started and make crazy beautiful happen, it takes people who just decide to go.
I've met a ton of people like Pete Kostelnick over the past 12 years as the race director of the Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series. There are still plenty of crazy beautiful people with crazy beautiful destiny changing ideas. God love 'em.
They exist. We exist. You exist.
Beautiful crazy is in the eyes of the beholder. This means that everyone can have their own idea of a crazy beautiful destiny changing idea. For some, it's trying to run across America in record time. For others, it is trying to run a 5K without stopping to walk. It's all crazy beautiful if it's your idea, if you want it to be crazy beautiful, and if you just decide to go.
"The spark of the human heartbeat is the birthplace of happiness."
Speaker at TEDx Big Sky
So how do we just decide to go?
To start, place your finger tips on the right side of your neck under your jaw. Press lightly. Feel something? That's where it starts.
For more than 2,000 years, Chinese medicine has been based on the heartbeat. Actually, it's heartbeats (plural) and to be more exact it's all about pulse. There is a pulse rate, a pulse strength, and a pulse width. Then within those categories, there is fast or slow (pulse rate), strong or weak (pulse strength), and thin or rolling (pulse width). This is all felt with some very sensitive fingertips on a person's wrist. Stress, depression, and insomnia can be measured as can fevers, digestion, and other issues. It's the branches that lead to the roots of life. To where it all starts.
When Eduardo Garcia (see this chapter's runner's profile) woke up after being electrocuted with 2,400 volts of electricity in the back country of Montana, he didn't know what had happened. He didn't know where he was. He didn't know much of anything other than he was on his back, looking up at the blue Montana sky, and realized that he was alive. He had a heartbeat. He had a pulse.
Decision time. Get up off the ground and find a way to get out of the backcountry. Or, stay on the ground. Survive or don't survive. Choose. The heart is beating and waiting for the decision.
Eduardo's Step One was to get up off the ground. Step Two was to walk, find a road, and get to help. Step Three was to not take shortcuts, but to stay on the road and stick with the longer, harder, and slower journey back. If there's a heartbeat, there's life. If there's life, anything is possible.
Listen to your pulse. Follow your heartbeat, change your destiny, just decide to go and see where it all leads.
For Robin Blazer and I, the decision to launch the Madison Marathon in 2008, despite knowing squat about marathons or organizing sporting events, led to a sold out marathon by 2012. This led to an eight race series by 2019. This led to my current efforts to take the race series international.
For the likes of NASA, the test pilots featured in the movie The Right Stuff about the original seven Mercury astronauts led to two guys walking on the moon less than a decade later. This led to 12 people walking on the moon, a reusable rocket called the Space Shuttle, and an international space station. This led to explorations beyond the moon. There are now three rovers on Mars with plans for private journeys to the red planet.
For chronic marathoners like Larry Macon (see next chapter), running the San Antonio Marathon on a whim at age 52 led to running marathon number 2,000 at age 72 in December 2017.
The sky is not the limit any more than the sky is the end of the universe. President Kennedy set his sights on the Moon and got us there. Presidents Bush and Obama set theirs on Mars and we're on our way. Piece by piece, with baby steps, and with some help from guys like Elon Musk, we've decided to go.
What's your crazy beautiful?
I hope you all find your crazy beautiful and just decide to do it. In the world of sports, there are a ton of crazy beautiful ideas that can alter if not change destinies. It's happening all over the world. You can be part of it just by deciding to sign up.
It's not the Moon, Mars, or quite like running across America, but it's still quite cool. When you're done, it will hopefully make you want to have a midmorning beer and ask yourself, 'Okay, what's next?'
That's a crazy beautiful way to live.
The John Colter Club
The John Colter Club is a members-only club for athletes who are or have been:
An inaugural athlete in one of the six GYAS races.
Earned a podium finish (top three) in the overall men and women's category of any GYAS race.
Are a three-time returnee to a GYAS race.
We want to recognize those who went first, those who finished well, and those who just keep coming back. For a membership fee of $30 per year and immense bragging rights for getting in, members receive the following:
A personalized water bottle with the GYAS logo, your name, and the club's name.
Early access. Members get to sign up for the GYAS races before the March 1 opening.
A discount of 15 percent off the entry fee of the race you sign up for.
Do the math and you can figure out that your $30 comes back to you pretty quick. If you qualify and if you want to join an exclusive club of athletes named after Montana's most famous total bad ass, send me an email. Tell me how you qualify. I'll confirm it all and send you the application.