I’m not quite sure know how to properly begin this blog post so I guess I’ll just start putting my thoughts into fruition.
First off, you may be wondering what the hell my Mini Dark Place is and why I choose to share such a thing, so, hence, I will explain:
There is a North Face athlete (ultra/mountain runner) from Flagstaff, AZ, named Rob Krar. His motto is, “I run far. 100 miles at a time. I go to a Dark Place and I control the pain.”
Through my running (especially focusing on distances upwards of the 26.2 marathon distance), I’ve continuously been curious as to what this Dark Place is all about. After thousands of miles (without trying to sound spiritual or cliche), I have finally come to a conclusion. This “Dark Place” that Rob Krar speaks of is a state of physical and mental being where the athlete sinks into a virtual hole of continuous struggle (pain) and peace (freedom). The athlete WANTS to be there.
Tonight, April 1, 2016, I finally visited my mini Dark Place. After work in Sawyer, I set out for an easy 11 miles. Upon the conclusion (around 7pm), I downed two pieces of salmon, some sweet potatoes, a kale salad, and a beer from Greenbush. I wasn’t planning on going to sleep until 11pm so I opted to run a few more miles once my food settled. As I was driving to Spicer Lake, I noted the threatening rain clouds approaching from the west. I parked alongside the road, got out, turned on my Petzl headlamp, and started my Garmin as the daylight was seconds away from disappearing. I had no real idea of how long I wanted to be out there.
After about 10 minutes, it started down pouring as the wind picked up. It became chilly and I could see my breath in the glow of my headlamp as the rain pelted my exposed face. I began floating effortlessly, pitter-pattering through the muddy ravines and soaked trails. No music. I was alone (besides the occasional critter). I started unintentionally sinking into the hole, the Dark Place that Rob Krar talks about. I tried not to accept the fact that I was there. The particular effort acted as the kindling to my blog post. I started formulating my intro. However, I soon realized I would not come close to remembering my exact thoughts, which caused me to virtually chuckle. The feeling of being sunk in the hole, the Dark Place, started to wash away but not after eclipsing another 10 miles. It’s funny, I usually pay close attention to staying hydrated and fueled properly but the body can do amazing things when in a primal setting, stripped down to the essentials. It’s in these moments that I realize that few things in this world are more badass, yet simple, than running through the trees at night.
Upon arriving home and sitting down and writing half of this, I came to the conclusion that, during training, I cannot purposely replicate this state of being. I cannot go out for a run and say “I am going to completely and utterly focus solely on this run, every step, every exact foot placement, every breath, one by one, until I enter the state of flow and have this blissful experience served on a platter by angels.” Whenever I have tried that approach, I have failed miserably. The Dark Place can only be entered by chance.
I can only imagine that Rob Krar enters his Dark Place during his 100-mile races because, well, that’s far. And a LONG time to be suffering. I entered a glimpse of my Dark Place tonight during a 10-miler (21 for the day), but I hope I am lucky enough to encounter it during my debut ultra at the Ice Age Trail 50-miler in 6 weeks.