Lance Parker ’15 spent the summer preparing for a 100-mile foot race in Wyoming. How did he prepare? By biking the 2500 miles to Vermont from Wyoming. Below are excerpts from his final paper about the experience. You can read more on his blog, bikingtoasenseofplace.blogspot.com.
“Sitting down has never gotten someone closer to a finish line.” As I was lying on the side of the trail cry(ing), my last time stopped before the aid station, a runner and his pacer picked me up from the dust of the trail. I said, “I can’t run with you.” “You don’t have to,” he said, “But you sure as hell better walk, walking’s gonna get you there. Sitting down has never gotten someone closer to a finish line.”
[The above is] an excerpt from the last post on my blog. Things get pithy after you’ve been moving for more than 24 hours. This exchange of words happened around mile 80 of my 100 mile race. I was in pain and under pressure. I felt as if every breath I let out and every drop of sweat I spilled getting myself to that starting line meant that I needed to finish. As John Muir said: “. . . for going out, I found, was really going in.” To some extent, these long bouts into the world are just an escapade, during which I gain the next step of insight into myself.
Whether or not I will actually be able to encourage others to travel by bicycle to 100 mile foot races doesn’t matter. What I’ve learned this summer is that passions are transferable. What empowers others is the feeling of inspiration that occurs when witnessing and relating someone else’s passion, no matter how different it is from theirs. That raw feeling inside of their spirit that occurs when watching someone excel or push the limits of their passion. We all have this capacity, and many times it is hard to relate someone else’s experience with ours. I have long tended to brush those feelings off as other people being more passionate or privileged about what it is that they are working towards, and I experience this from others. It is easy to do this; it lowers our expectations of ourselves. When someone over-acknowledges the effort I put forth, it allows them to under-acknowledge their own passion.
While I was in Buffalo, Wyoming, I joined Brian Cotant at a Bible study, my first time ever doing this. I wanted to make sure I was open to all experiences that came my way. During this study, we focused on the proverb “you will reap what you sow,” and we discovered that whether you sow responsibly, or irresponsibly, what you reap will be disproportionate to what you believe you deserve. Whether a believer in God or the Bible or not, the words speak to the truth. If one performs in a gracious way, doing good, often this person will receive a disproportionate amount of good in [his or her] life. They will receive more good than they feel they deserve. The same goes for the person who does the opposite in [her or his] life; they will receive negative [energy] in their [lives] to an extent disproportionate to the bad that they have done, and they will feel cheated. This conversation had me delving so deeply into what it was that I had been doing with my life.
I felt that for the entire extent of this trip, I was being dealt a better card than I ever deserved. Life was treating me so well. Had I simply set intentions that were clear and of value, and that was why I was having the good fortune of meeting all of the great people along my route? I feel hesitant to call it good luck, if it may have something to do with the reason why I was out there.
I am currently fighting in the struggle for a balanced life. This is a beautifully difficult process after a project such as this. It is difficult to transition out of a mindset that was so well balanced between being process- and goal-oriented. The intense level of focus that I maintained during this trip by living and breathing it has me in an unsatisfied place now.
It’s that feeling that I’m sure someone getting out of prison has. That “I don’t know how to live now” feeling. That “what next?” feeling. Sadly, bases need to be covered before getting to touch the home plate again, and I am in that process before I can determine what will lay ahead for me. I do however, have an appetite for always “upping the ante” and I am aware that if I am going to keep building upon these experiences, I am going to have to keep working towards it, more, and more, and more. For now, the power of commuting to work by bicycle is keeping me moving forward, and the power of learning more about the bicycle is keeping me sane.
Written by Lance Parker.