Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Trail Running Is My Favorite Form of Meditation

I was wasting my time, but there was a chance I'd be picking up Jenn "Mookie" Shelton and Billy "Bonehead" Barnett, a pair of twenty-one-year-old hotshots who'd been electifying the East Coast ultra circuit, at least whenever they weren't otherwise occupied surfing, partying, or posting bail for simple assault (Jenn), disorderly conduct (Billy), or public indecency (both, for a burst of trailside passion that resulted in an arrest and community service). . . .

Jenn was wearing flip-flops, surf shorts, and a tie-dyed T-shirt. Her summer-wheat hair was in braids, giving her the look of a blonder, lesser-known Longstocking. She was pretty and petite enough to pass for a figure skater, an image she'd tried in the past to scruff up by shaving her head down to stubble and getting a big, black vampire bat tattoed on her right forearm, only discovering later that it was a dead ringer for the Bacardi rum logo. "Whatever," Jenn said with a shrug. "Truth in advertising." . . .

At the Old Dominion 100 a few months later, aid-station volunteers at the halfway mark heard screams echoing through the woods. Moments later, a girl in pigtails burst from the trees. She flipped up in a handstand, jumped back to her feet, and began shadowboxing. . . .

"You've got to get her to slow down," one of the aid-station volunteers told Billy. "She's going three hours faster than the course record." . . .

Billy shrugged. After a year of romance with Jenn, he'd learned she was capable of absolutely anything except moderation. Even when she wanted to rein herself in, whatever was building inside her--passion, inspiration, aggravation, hilarity--inevitably came fire-hosing out. After all, this was a woman who joined the UNC rugby team and set a standard considered previously unachievable throughout the sport's one-hundred-seventy-year history: Too Wild for Rugby Parties. . . .

"I never really discussed this with anyone because it sounds pretentious, but I started running ultras to become a better person," Jenn told me. "I thought if you could run one hundred miles, you'd be in this Zen state. You'd be the fucking Buddha, bringing peace and a smile to the world. It didn't work in my case--I'm the same old punk-ass as before--but there's always that hope that it will turn you into the person you want to be, a better, more peaceful person.

"When I'm out on a long run," she continued, "the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn't going
blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It's just me and the movement and the motion. That's what I love--just being a barbarian, running through the woods."


As the rest of us had discovered during the long bus ride, Barefoot Ted talked the way Charlie Parker played the sax: he'd pick up on any cue and cut loose with a truly astonishing torrent of improvisation, seeming to breathe in through his nose while maintaining an endless flow of sound out of his mouth. . . .

"My life is a controlled explosion," Barefoot Ted likes to say. . . .

Because Lisa was a bouncer at a heavy-metal bar and only got home at 3 a.m., her exposure to Ted was limited to the dry-land version of the bottom of the pool: after work, she'd come home to find Ted sitting quietly at the kitchen table, eating rice and beans with his nose buried in French philosophy. His stamina and intelligence were already legendary among his roommates; Ted could paint all morning, skateboard all afternoon, and memorize Japanese verbs all night. He'd fix Lisa a hot plate of beans, and then, with his manic motor finally running down, he'd stop performing and let her talk. Every once in a while, he'd chip in a sensitive insight, then encourage her to go on. Few ever saw this Ted. That was their great loss--and his. . . .

On his first barefoot run, Ted went five miles and felt . . . nothing. Not a twinge. He bumped it up to an hour, then two. Within months, Ted had transformed himself from an aching, fearful non-runner into a barefoot marathoner with such speed that he was able to accomplish something that 99.9 percent of all runners never will: he qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Intoxicated with his startling new talent, Ted kept pushing further. He went on to run the Mother Road 100--one hundred miles of asphalt on the original Route 66--and the Leona Divide fifty-miler, and Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run through the rugged San Gabriel Mountains. . . .

"All right!" Ted said, clapping his hands. "Who gets me?"


"Okay," Scott said. "But you've got to let me sleep."

We shut our doors and sank into deep piles of wool blankets. Silence fell of Creel, until the last thing Scott heard was Barefoot Ted's voice in the dark.

"Okay, brain," Ted muttered. "Relax. Time to quiet down."


From Born to Run


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