This morning I read a post on Facebook from laz lake, the infamous race director of the Big’s Backyard Ultra. It included a short interview with this year’s winner, Johan “The Swift Swede” Steene.
In Johan’s own words, here is his 68 hours 283-mile reflection:
“If there had been a predestined finish line at Big’s Backyard my money would have been on Courtney to win, she would beat me at any such race and distance.
But at the Backyard you draw your own lines.
As long we are at least two remaining there is a feeling of purpose, that this painful game has a meaning.
That illusion disappears in a blink when only one remains.
The actual winning needs to be the sole focus if that is what you’re after. That focus was feeding me and let me put all other things aside.
At the moment when Courtney congratulated me and remained in the coral as I jogged away alone into the Tennessee night I didn’t feel joy. I felt empty and without purpose. You can not carry the illusion by yourself. It takes at least two to play.
Thanks Courtney Dauwalter for taking us this far. We are good at playing this game.”
What I love most about Steene’s response is his acknowledgment of illusion. And how it 1UP’ed his motivation when the race was down to it’s final two competitors.
Because of what it brings out in the other. The other becomes of a source of inspiration. It prescribes meaning to pain. It makes the suffering worthwhile.
But when that inspiration dies (the myriad forms it takes) going forward, even if it’s an inch, becomes almost unbearable.
That’s why Yiannis Kouros, arguably the greatest ultrarunner of the modern era, says:
“Like a tree that grows stronger with more branches and roots, you need to find more and more ways to be inspired”
So when one branch is severed from the tree…another must take its place.
Though it may look like an ordinary branch, it’s unique to itself. And must be experienced without comparing it to other branches.
That’s why I created the “Runner’s High” newsletter. It’s a daily reminder that these branches of inspiration exist. And when you take action on the content inside. The potential of becoming more and more inspired grows. And when inspiration is present you are capable of accomplishing remarkable things.
But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself here: