Ten Rules From Above

A few days ago we were running in the heat to get Donald acclimated for a 100-mile run on the Tahoe Rim Trail this coming weekend. It was a long hilly run on the trails of Fort Ord, at the hottest time of day in the mid-afternoon. We were both wearing thick cotton sweats and hadn’t had any water for a few hours.

We had placed water bottles under a large rock a few days earlier, but when we got there the bottles had evidently been tampered with, and water was spilling out from under the rock, completely undrinkable. Disappointed and parched, we continued up the hill. At the summit, the sun shone brightly from behind a bush that made it look like it was on fire.

It was then that we heard the voice.

Each of us thought it was a hallucination, but we both heard it: deep, powerful, and mysterious. “Fear not,” the voice said, “for I have wise advice for you.”

Donald was too overwhelmed to talk, but Mike said, “What advice can you give Donald for his 100-miler?” The voice replied sternly, “Listen carefully to these ten rules.”

“First, and most important: I will be your only coach. Don’t take advice from anyone else!” We both nodded our agreement.

“Run only for enjoyment and personal challenge; don’t idolize the finisher’s medal or the glory of spectators.” That sounded profound, and it seemed like the voice was indeed rather wise.

“When the miles grow difficult, don’t start cursing me. Remember, you’re the one who signed up for this crazy thing.” Fair enough, we suppose.

“Take a good long rest at sundown on Friday until your race begins on Saturday morning. It probably wouldn’t hurt to say a few prayers that night, either.” That sounded reasonable.

“Be thankful for the slow twitch muscle fibers you inherited from your father and mother, and honor them by not overworking your muscles to cause lactic acid buildup.” Apparently the voice had some exercise physiology background as well.

“Speed kills! Pace yourself wisely throughout the race, and don’t race to keep up with any competitors.” Coincidentally, this is one that Donald struggles with quite often.

“If your pacer [a safety companion for the last half of the race] is a female, be careful of becoming too emotionally involved with her!” Our wives would appreciate that rule. Suddenly the sun started to set lower in the sky, and the voice began speaking really fast.

“Eat and drink properly at every aid station, but don’t steal anything from another runner’s drop bag!” That one seemed like common courtesy.

“Don’t exaggerate or complain about factors that might slow you down, like illness or injury. Everyone faces similar challenges, and nobody likes a sandbagger!” The voice seemed to be scolding us a bit, before taking a more respectful turn …

“Don’t covet the lifestyles of your neighbors who seek short term pleasures. You’ve trained diligently and faithfully – now run with perseverance, and in striving for the larger prize you’ll be generously rewarded.” And with that, the voice fell silent.

We stared at the bush and each other for a few minutes in silence, then started back down the hill slowly. Donald said, “Well I guess we know what our next column is going to be.” Mike replied, “Sure … but who will believe us?”

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