Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Run Hellgate?

Why run Hellgate? I know some folks think it's crazy and can't imagine why someone would. One answer is the perennial "I guess you've got to be there" to understand.

I haven't done it yet, so I don't really know the answer. A previous winner of the run, Jason Schwartzbard, has written: "...those reasons that we share with acquaintances over cocktails at holiday parties only skim the edges of our reasoning....Just as the painter, dancer, mathematician or corporate executive creates, so does the runner. But while the painter, dancer, mathematician or corporate executive feel[s] both the joy of meeting the human need to create, and the pleasure of seeing some final product, the runner only has the former....So at those cocktail parties, the reasons that come out for running long distances in the woods tend toward values that are meaningful after the fact. But as I ran down that grassy road, a little more than half way through the race, a few minutes before sunrise, what drove me forward had nothing to do with pushing myself to new heights or being able to eat more pie the following week. What drove me forward was the transcendent satisfaction of creating my experience."

I touched on a similar idea in an earlier blog posting ("Ordinary People," December 26, 2009) -- the idea that artists, writers, dancers, and other creators must find satisfaction in the act of creation and not in the "final product."

"Oh, what I'd give to re-experience the event, itself," says Virginia. "Second, give me the memory, not the sterility of a recording."

Well, Virginia is a pro, one of the few who peaked in her profession, however briefly. As an amateur musician who enjoys performing, I hesitate to focus on the moment of performance. Musicians, like athletes, train for weeks, years, for their performances, and then can stumble because something takes a wrong turn -- maybe another musician's error, a broken string, a memory lapse, or an overheated room. I don't want my satisfaction to depend on the performance. The performance means little if I'm miserable practicing by myself or working with other musicians.

Likewise, Hellgate. I'd be disappointed if I didn't run the race. The moment when I cross the finish line will be a special moment. But -- race director, you may stop reading now -- I have already experienced an incredible amount of satisfaction before toeing the starting line, running alone in the forest in Fall colors and sunshine, dry leaves swishing at my feet, spying a white tail bouncing through the trees or a flock of turkeys lifting off, and being grateful my body parts are able to complain. The creative process can feel very good, good, not-so-good, not-so-bad, bad and very bad, but most of all creation feels.

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