When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Life...what for?

Since I've got nothing interesting to say myself:) and because I promised anyway, here are a couple of passages from Marathon&Beyond magazine I promised last time.

The first one is by William B. Latter from his story on "My most unforgettable Ultramarathon", and while it (the story) had little to do with regular lessons, I found the fist few paragraphs fascinating.

A life without regrets is a life that has not been lived, one without challenges, risks, or explorations. Regrets are the natural outcome of failure. Failure is the natural outcome of finding limits, exceeding them, and sometimes going too far. Failure, if risked but not sought, is an opportunity to learn, to try again, and to become more. Yet we question our failures as lost opportunities, risks that should not have been taken, and even as moments of weakness. These are the regrets we must accept when we risk failures. Regrets are not something to seek out. They are to be avoided. But they should not be shunned to the point of never risking a life with regrets. Winston Churchill said: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts". We might at times succeed, but life continues and challenges remain. We might at times fail, but chances for success are always present. Going on in the face of potential failure and regret makes us great beyond anything we could plan for ourselves.
Any runners who have gone beyond their limits, only to find there was no limit, knows all of this very well. Whether we are risking months of hard work to come up short of a personal best in a 10k or putting it all on the line in taking the chance of not completing a marathon or ultrarun, we always come out better for having tried and not succeeded than having not made the attempt at all. Running is a microcosm of life.
I do not cherish my regrets. Some nag me. Some make me unhappy. Yet if I take a moment to look at them, I see that there is much to be learned from those regrets and the risks I took that led me to them. For this reason, I appreciate them, trust them to teach me more about who I am, and rely on them to help define me and make me better.

And then there is an exert of Dr. George Sheehan book, one author who can be cited millions of times, but I found very interesting his following statement on humans - not runners necessary - as they are. The short story is about a play "A thousand Clowns" about a man Arnold Burns...you know, your next door neighbor, a "nobody", a regular middle class man.

He is everything the sociologists wring their hands over - the American male caught in a mesh of worries, still dreaming the impossible dream.
But Arnold Burns sees it differently. "You don't respect me so much (he tells his brother), you want me to be a hero...I am willing to deal with the available world...I am not an exceptional man and I have a talent for surrender. I am at peace. I am not one of the bad guys. I take pride...I am the best Arnold Burns".
Mediocrity, you see, is in the eye of the beholder. Arnold Burns is not half-way up anybody's mountain. He is on top of his own. He is the king if his hill. Anyone can be a success, he tells us, unless he tries to climb someone else's mountain. Man, no matter how mediocre he appears, is still the greatest wonder in the world...
Man is born to be a success. There are no failures in nature. Failures occur when our goals are unrealistic, false and too vague, when we have no idea who we are and where we are going.
The key then is to find your own mountain...The person can be complete or incomplete, but one thing for sure: he cannot be someone else...

And to finish these thoughts, here is a couple of phrases they made me think hard - from a book not only recommended by Craig, but actually sent to me by him, the book I should have known about better than he does, the book by Russian one and only Lev Tolstoy "Confession":

My question...was a most simple one that lies in the soul of every person, from a silly child to a wise old man. It is the question without which life is impossible, as I had learnt from experience. It is this: what will come of what I do today or tomorrow? What will come of my entire life?..Why do I live?

And while you (hopefully) ponder on some of the thoughts I shared, please think of me, Tom and Scott as we ponder same questions while trying to pick our feet over these mountains at Silver State 50M in NV/Lake Tahoe region.


  1. Those are wonderful excerpts and food for thought. Thanks, Olga, and I'll be thinking of you lighting up the Silver State 50M.

  2. Wow, that's great stuff. You're right, that first paragraph is chock full of brilliance. I'll keep my eye out for you this Saturday. (I'll be there running the 50K.)Good Luck!

  3. Great stuff! Much to ponder. I'll be thinking of you at Silver State as my feet tread the trails of Mac. Have a great day! :-)

  4. good luck with silver state!

  5. I'd give you my thoughts on this, but I have a feeling Craig's answer will be a lot better than mine. At least you'll have a lot of time to think it over this weekend.

  6. Go get em Olga! Have a great time and enjoy the day - Ronda

  7. wow olga, i shall be reflecting on this post for some time to come.....seeing regret and failure in yet another new light. thnaks for sharing.

  8. 50/50 watch out! Here comes Zen runner Olga! What a nice thoughtful post. I've been saving my M&B for a rainy day (this weekend). Have a great race ;-)

  9. The first excerpt was especially good. I have been pondering the last question a lot this year. Have fun this weekend!

  10. Thanks for posting those Olga. Have a great run at Silver State!

  11. Have a great run at Silver State, Olga. I'll be thinking of you during Bishop 50 and wishing you peace and strength. :)

  12. Olga,

    You've captured some very powerful thoughts in these exerpts. Perhaps you can call upon their sentiments during the challenges of this next ultra. Good luck this weekend!

    Also, did the description of my run up and back on Mt. Baldy ring a bell to you? You ran it a few years ago! I need to shortly pick your brain about that race!

    Thanks for this awesome post!


  13. Good luck at Silverstate 50/50. I presume you're running the 50 miles - it goes without saying, coming from you!

  14. Great reading material, very motivational...thx for sharing!

    Sorry to hear about that nagging pain over the past weeks, sounds like cross training has helped!

    Good luck tomorrow at Silver State....Happy Running :-)

  15. Good Luck Olga this weekend at Silver State, looks like an amazing course!!!

  16. Lots to think about.... Reach for the moon and have fun this weekend!

  17. I've always been skeptical about people who say they have no regrets. I guess Latter would say if we have no regrets then we haven't tested our limits enough in this life. And if we haven't tested our limits enough then there is the likelihood that we haven't lived life to it's full potential. At the minimum we've missed some learning opportunities along the way.

    I'm reminded about how often we wish our life were like someone else's or that we were like someone else (trying to climb someone else's mountain). Not a very fulfilling way to spend the days we are given.

    The group of pastors I drink coffee with on Tuesdays are giving me a hard time for quoting from Tolstoy in recent sermons (no body does that they say). But I find his thought process profound.

    The question you quote from him is likely the most significant question we will ever ponder. I'm not sure my answer would be better than Donald's or anyone else's. I only know that I have spent a good deal of time in this life seeking to formulate an answer.

    Thanks for the thoughts. Sometimes it's not necessary that we exercise the gift of originality in writing. Learning to see the connections between thoughts and events is a gift in its own right. I've benefited from your gift by reading here.

    Have a great run tomorrow. I hope you find fulfillment in climbing your own mountain.

  18. Love the passages. I couldn't agree more. As I quote in my blog title: "Only those who risk failing greatly can ever succeed greatly." –RFK. Yep! Thanks, Olga.

  19. Great thoughts for sure. Best wishes for the Silver State 50!

  20. I hope the run went well today. I'll be back to read the report.