The absurdity of running is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, that someone thinks your daily 5-mile trek is ‘nuts’ might pale in comparison to how you view someone who trains for full marathon. We all have our reference points.
Here’s my example of absurdity in athletics – In 2011, an Irishman named Gerry Duffy entered the U.K. DECA-Enduroman Iron triathlon. The premise of the event was to complete an Iron triathlon every day for TEN CONSECUTIVE DAYS. Let’s see, I’m not good with the numbers but that’s 24 miles of swimming, 1,160 miles of cycling, oh and let’s add on 262 miles of running. Of the 20 original entrants in the DECA, only three finished, with Duffy taking home the gold.
Duffy wrote about this event, as well as the training that led up to it, in his 2013 book ‘Tick, Tock, Ten’. It’s a fascinating account of not only the accomplishment, but the calories and the sleep deprivation and the support crew and even the absurdity of the course itself. His fastest day was 14 hours, 10 minutes and his slowest 17 hours, 59 minutes. The marathon was 26 – one mile loops (or 260 times!). Bet you’ll never complain about a 5k on the track again. Duffy was ‘wrecked’ for the better part of a year afterwards, but also had gained two pounds during the ten days. A sign, he says, indicated that the nutrition was ‘spot on’.
We often hear about people undertaking absurd athletic challenges that we might gasp at either in morbid fascination or complete disbelief. Can you count the number of times a friend or family member has said to you ‘I don’t even drive my car that far’? Neither can I. And it’s sorta lost its humor, too – it was just a half-marathon!
Running for the sake of running is in and of itself an absurd pursuit. Why do we run? Well, because we love being absurd, I suppose. What made Duffy aspire to run the DECA triathlon? I’ll paraphrase from his book; it was the challenge. He’d run 32 marathons in one year as a precursor, so I can only guess he was upping the ante.
The reference point I mentioned earlier really is what is viewed as the difference between what is absurd and what is a challenge. Over the past 20 years, I’ve participated in seven 200-mile multi-leg relays, where team members alternate who runs, until the entire team completes the 200-mile journey. I view these stage races as challenges, but I have been told I’m nuts, crazy and ‘absurd’. To me, Duffy was nuts. To others, I’m nuts.
This month I will surpass my 44th anniversary as a runner. I started on August 15, 1978 and have been running, relatively healthy, that entire time. In those 44 years, there is nothing that I have done that I myself would deem to be absurd. Challenging, oh yes, but never enough to see myself through the prism of ‘absurdity’.
In your running journey, have you ever found yourself looking at a Duffy-like challenge, that bordered on the unimaginable? My guess is that if you did finally accept the challenge, you never viewed it as absurd. And in the end, isn’t your reference point the only one that truly matters? I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails.