This is a modified/extended version of an email I sent to Graham "German" Kelly.
I frequently question whether what I do, in terms of Adventure Racing, is worth it.
I'm of average fitness, probably never ever going to make a podium place, the news, an international team, or any money out of it. I pay substantial quantities of money to put my body and mind through a hundred variations on the theme 'hell'. I neglect my girlfriend, I put my career in potential jeopardy, and I hurt myself. I torture my legs and lungs, question my own sanity, mistake my intentions for my abilities, curse any and every deity that might possibly exist, and then arrive - wheezing - at the end, to all-too-readily forget my pain, once I have spent the next week recovering from, and paying for, my physical excesses.
Would I change any of the above for a nice, comfortable life of couch-based ignominy? Hell no.
Craig from Fast & Light has as his email signature the quote "mediocrity is not an option", and it's true. I may not be a world champion, but what I do sets me apart from the maddening crowds, and lets me escape from the head-down mindless boogie of my day-to-day existence: From 9am 'til 5pm, I'm a mild mannered computer geek striving reasonably to make a decent wage to support my dirty habits. Come the evenings and weekends, I'm free to be, in my mind if nowhere else, a lycra-clad not-quite-super-hero, battering my way through a torture chamber of someone else's devising, trying to just stay upright and survive with my body and brain intact. And above all, I've a good bunch of friends who understand all of this, or at least smile, nod and go "awesome!" in the right conversational locations.
I'm lucky to have friends who, when they hear that I'm lining up for a 1-day, 100 mile Bike and Run event, say "cool!" not "you're insane". If they do question my sanity, it's couched in a manner that says "okay, that's a big challenge, but you'll be fine" It will most probably sound soft, but these are people who have enough of a connection - physical, mental, spiritual or whatever - to actually CARE that what I do, though it hurts like hell, makes me happy. And a lot of them know this first-hand, for they too are everyday endorphin junkies, also getting their lycra-clad kicks on the most natural of chemicals. And I know that one of these people, just one person who actually 'gets' it, is worth a thousand passing acquaintances or inverted-comma friends.
So, I'll toddle off with a song lyric. This ably sums up what a good half of my existence, and that of many other likeminded mini-legends out there, is about:
"This country is my canvas, I leave paint trails as I go.
I’m painting a picture that you can only see from outer space.
My bedroom is your sofa, I take my breakfast on the train.
I’m tired and I’m dirty, but not a second goes to waste.
I’ll be dead but never dying, and I say that with a smile
It’s just my way of trying to be alive.
And Heaven’s in the half-light, and that’s where I reside,
A whiskey and a wry smile - I check my vital signs."
Frank Turner - Vital Signs