The Land of the Dead

I’m dying!

Come to think of it you’re dying too.  Everyone is dying. As soon as you are born you are going to die, the only question is how long you’ve got. For most of us the snuffing out of our stuttering flame of consciousness seems an eternity away. Something we don’t have to think about at all.  Some of us have death hiding just around the corner without us being aware. This Friday I was at the funeral of someone who had death slap them in the face and announce their impending arrival. For him he had 13 months from diagnosis to pushing up daisies and, during that time he did as many of the things that he had imagined himself getting round to someday as possible.

During the humanist ceremony people got up and shared their stories of this chap. Some funny (most in fact, he was a character) and some tinged with sadness but, there were tales to tell. These ranged from childish mischief at a catholic school to exciting adventures on cruises taken in that last year he had. All of this got me thinking about two books. Beowulf and the Subtle Knife. Beowulf started me off because it appears to be the mythologised memorial to a man. A man who did enough to be immortalised in tales that were told around the campfires long after he was dead. Reality and fantasy merged but a name that survived, the closest thing to immortality I think any of us can hope for. The Subtle Knife came to mind because of the harpies in the land of the dead. The dead need to travel with tales of their own, something that they have done, adventures they have had or they are doomed. Doomed to be reminded of their own failures and inadequacies.

How does this relate to running? Well a lot of my running life has involved collecting stories. The first story was on my first ever run. Like a bat out of hell I launched myself out of the front door and shot off down the road. One hundred meters later I realised just how bloody hard this was going to be and I had a moment where I had to decide. Give up because it was hard or, carry on because this was on my list of things to do and putting it off to a someday that may never come would leave a story without an end.

Another story started when my hand hovered over the booking button for my first marathon. I had always thought one day I could run one. I mean it seemed possible but, just not then. However if I kept putting it off it would never be possible and, that marathon would never be run and the story not collected. The same experience occurred with my first foreign race. That was an adventure story. I travelled alone and I ran alone it was my experience that was shared with others vicariously. Possibly the experience that pushed my boundaries furthest so far.

What comes next? You will have to wait a little while longer wonderful disciples of my blog, I have plans that are almost in place but now is not the moment for revelation. Now is the moment for patented Saul Bee folksy running wisdom.

Running is a bit like being given a terminal diagnosis. It is all yours no one else can really take it over for you. Nobody will die in your place once you have that diagnosis, and no body else can train for you. That kind of responsibility sharpens the mind and makes you take stock of what is really valuable. You can have an easy safe numbing life coddled by junk food and TV but, when you are gone what will be left behind? I myself choose to do things so when I die stories to go with me.  Stories for people to tell when they meet up and remember my name or, at the very least to tell the harpies on the other side of the barrier in the land of the dead.

Talking of which I seem to have put on some weight so along with any other plans I may have I need to shift that. Who want’s to spend eternity being told they are a fat lazy bastard of a failure by a bunch of screaming harpies?


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