Today I was chatting with another ultra-runner and in the course of the conversation I found myself saying, "I would run a 100 miler every weekend if I could."
Now, a few hours later I am reflecting on that statement and I realize that at the heart of it is this: I miss thru-hiking.
In ultrarunning, nothing is more epic than the 100 mile (or more) event. It requires extreme endurance, focus, and tenacity. In order to enjoy it, you must also thrive on pushing yourself and the beauty of being "out there". In backpacking, there is nothing more epic than a "thru-hike" of a long trail: 2,000+ miles and months on end of travel through the mountains or other wild places. In order to complete a multi-month trek you must posses extreme endurance, focus, tenacity, and above all, a love for being "out there".
It's easy to see why when I stopped thru-hiking I fell into ultrarunning with such fervor. The 50 and 100 mile events take me to the wilds. They tap into those same emotions and strengths I honed walking across the United States year after year in my early 20's. They allow me to kiss the wilderness. Plunge deep into the mountains. Run wild in the most gorgeous playgrounds. And still be home in time for a shower and dinner.
This has gotten me through 6 years of working and attempting to fit into "normal" society. The truth is, however, that my heart and soul are never going to be healed by running. Perhaps if I ran 100 miles every weekend it would be enough, but that would break my body, even if it did heal my spirit.
I am whole in the wilderness. I go there for redemption and rejuvenation. I go there because I need it. My homeland consists of rocky passes, broad plains, sparkling rivers, and impenetrable forests. After 6 years of short visits I realize that I need to go home for a while. A long while.