Once I went for a particularly hard run. As I was cooling in my front yard, salt sweat in my eyes and breath short, a gentleman strolled by at a gentlemanly pace. This neighbor was a psychiatrist of the Freudian bent. For a pity filled moment, he stared at my self-induced discomfort. Then, he proposed a question that has since intrigued me. He asked why do I run? Was I running towards some idealized goal or was I running away? If the later, was I fleeing my mortality?
Many years have passed and experience has supplied myriad answers. Exercise keeps weight down which prevents diabetes. People that exert have less cancer. You sleep better. You feel better when you are in shape, even if you are not a super athlete. A tough workout clears the mind. I would also agree it is not a bad idea to stay a few strides ahead of the grim reaper (who jogs, but I hope does not sprint). However, perhaps these answers are incomplete.
Copper Mine Road is a half-mile of black tar torture. This twisted, patch paved, narrow country road was designed for the gas combustion engine, not muscle. Its gorgeous trees and vistas distract the traveler only briefly from the cardiovascular effort it demands. Copper Mine rises 225 feet in under a half-mile, achieving a 5% grade. It is painful to walk or run up. The Amy Ride Fundraiser for mammograms takes this little piece of hell up, by bike. Today, as I struggled in first gear, grinding up that minor mountain, the question of that inquisitor rang in my ears. Why would anyone do this?
It occurred to me, as I finally cleared the rise, that perhaps he had asked the wrong question. The query assumes we live for another time, either desired or feared. However, I was not struggling up that incline towards some reward, nor was I pedaling to stay ahead of the dark. Rather, Copper Mine itself was the goal and the reason. By being in modest physical shape, I had the opportunity to tackle a challenge and achieve small personal glory. The pleasure of living that moment. Life now, not a dream tomorrow.
Our lives are full of Copper Mines. Some are obvious, such as a chance to dig in a root-plagued garden, swim in an ice-cold lake, hike a rocky crag or bike up a tough road. Challenges and their rewards include frolicking with grandchildren, scraping paint off an old boat or playing a round of golf on a scorching July day. Sometimes these moments are not good. The toughest Copper Mines include injury and disease. Being in shape gives us a better chance recover from adversity. Being physically prepared for attack makes it more likely we will survive. Each of these, good and bad, suddenly stress our minds and bodies. Such roads can be mastered only if we have prepared.
Therefore, the psychiatrist was in part wrong. Taking care of one’s body is not about tomorrow or phantoms close behind. Being in shape is about living each day. If we are ready, then Copper Mine is conquering life now.