“Never . . . Again . . . Ever . . . ” These three words endurance athletes express time and again after a failure. Author Ryan M. Chukuske relates in his book Into the Darkness such despair may serve a larger purpose. The terrible three we’ll call them may just be the most important motivators one can find. Burying those words deep may take years but remains a doable task.
Spawned by failure, driven by trail demons, motivated by devilish limits, Chukuske engages readers as he races back to runner’s sanity with a thrilling Savage 100-mile trail traipsing through the woods and meandering meadows of the Murphy-Hanrehan State Park, Savage, Minn. Getting there is the story; racing the one-time event provides the rush.He learned methods to bounce-back from challenges through a favorite theme of mine: winning by losing. Chukuske calls it “100 Miles of Thought: Finding Success Through Failure,” an earlier book of his. Those who have never failed, have never sought the edge or their absolute limits, have yet to take a risk. They have lost by not pushing that line. What that limit is varies among all trail athletes, but the key remains stretching ourselves while finding new boundaries by dusting aside old ones.
Learning defeat by challenging the Afton Trail Run 50 Km, a Twin Cities tradition in trail running with climbs named “Meat Grinder” to give one a feel of its methods to chew up racers, the author
kept at it and captured the thrill of overcoming. He recognizes his mistakes, makes no excuses for them, and finally sets off to solve them. I know this feeling oh-so-well when he writes, “Then I realized I hadn’t even gone three miles yet, and I was exhausted.” I just could not express it that well. Such a realization proves tough to overcome when 90 percent of the distance remains.
Our emotions on the trail can overwhelm us at times like when the author encounters a helpful volunteer in a race. Many comments in the heat of finishing or racing may take us by storm leading to retorts or actions we may later, upon reflection, regret. Through understanding and forgetting, his examples offer readers fodder for the future, fine-tuning areas where we may quarry our emotions. Only then do we improve the mental runner.
Chukuske writes, “This is why we run. We get to see the world through exhaust and pain. And through those eyes, beauty is everywhere,” a notable realization. Can you not recall making way on trail, fighting exhaustion, not wanting to let “fatigue make a coward of you” as Prefontaine would say. Then noting something on the path, maybe as simple as an old decaying log resting among new growth, the mind lapses away to another dimension, pain forgotten.
Participating in Surf-the-Murph ultras, Afton ultras, and other tests on trails, he wrote: “One person’s failure is another’s success, and this is my success. I own every part of it and have never been as proud. Never been as humbled. I journey on, forever changed.”
Ryan Chukuske, Madison Lake, Minn., gender male, age 33, won the Savage 100 overall by 80 minutes. His trip into the darkness yielded light at daybreak. Amazon now warehouses your copy of Into the Darkness.