“What is it that you've learned, what are you able to do?"
"I can think. I can wait. I can fast." Siddhartha answering the merchant.
For the past three years, I’ve taken part in a seemingly odd annual ritual of coming to the pristine mountain town of Chamonix to sit and wait for 10 days – waiting, until the last Friday of August when with 2,500 other runners, I get to run around Mont Blanc.
My first year doing the race was in 2009, which was also my first time running a hundred miles. When I arrived, I was so awestruck with the new environment that I ran around the mountain in three days, right after stepping off the plane. Following the recon of the course, I could hardly contain my excitement, so I hiked and ran in every direction from the apartment where I was staying. Shortly before the race, I came down with a cold and got to the start feeling worn down and unnecessarily fatigued. While I did get around the mountain, my over indulgence of sweet alpine trails came to nab me late in the race and I struggled to the finish. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good at waiting.
The following year, in 2010, since I already knew the course, I was able to temper my urges for tagging every summit in sight and while I definitely still got out quite a bit, I was a lot more rested at the start. The days and hours leading up to the race were fairly stressful though, with a lot of uncertainty around whether or not we would be able to run due to foul weather. We finally got the green light that everything would go down as planned but by Les Contamines, only 30 kilometers into the race, the event was cancelled. More waiting ensued, mainly marked by hitting the refresh button over and over on Facebook, Twitter and the official UTMB webpage for any news as to what might happen. I dozed off in front of my computer late that night, only to wake up and find out that I had 20 minutes to make it to Courmayeur, Italy for the restart. As that obviously wasn’t going to happen, I felt like I had waited for nothing.
As I sit this year, on the day of the race, getting reports of more bad weather, delayed starts and course re-routes, I can’t help but think about the wait. Anticipation and expectations of what is to come are truly what plague the wait. If I wait patiently you see, enjoying the extra time spent with family and friends, the good food on the table, the stunning views from my balcony, I am in fact not really waiting at all. Rather, I am engaged in the every moment the day has to offer and worry free of what has not yet come. I will run tonight in a similar head space – unconcerned by the next climb or the storm looming ahead as they will come and go like the clouds in the sky. It’s not that hard to wait if you just be.