Monday, March 7, 2011

Burn the Boats

Yesterday I had the pleasure of banditing the Semi-Marathon de Paris. In other words, I pulled an equivalent of parking my tush on Tightwad hill to watch Cal football within the context of the running world: I ran a race without registering. As silly as it might seem, sometimes allowing yourself to participate unofficially in an event, however small a technicality it may or may not be, is a way to remove some of the self imposed pressure knowing that you are 'competing' can bring. This was my state of mind when I decided to bandit said Semi, among other motivators.

I've mentioned in previous posts as well my friend The Diplomat. The Diplomat and I run well together, so we decided on Friday night at a pre-race pasta party he hosted at his place for our training group to go it together on Sunday. Amid fridgid winds on Sunday morning, our group huddled together for some mutual encouragement and he looked at me almost laughingly through the glaring northern sun and chuckled "Are you ready?" Needless to say, I'd been excited all week, and colorfully responded in the affirmative.

Once the gun went off it took some time for us to make our way to the start to the thump of Duck Sauce's ridiculous "Barbara Streisand," my first foray into the many differences between European and American running culture, with an air of celebration. The Diplomat and I hit the mats and sped off, weaving our way through the thick bottle neck of more than 30,000 participants.

Comfortably settled into a good rhythm, The Diplomat and I started chatting when he brought up the subject of NFL Jets coach Rex Ryan, who is known for his unique locker room speeches. Most recently, The Diplomat elaborated, Ryan had fired up his team by describing an anecdote about Hernand Cortez. Upon arrival in the new world, Cortez, legend has it, told his men it was all or nothing--they were either committed to their enterprise or they weren't. So they committed; they committed so much in fact, that they burned the very boats they'd arrived in. No way back.

Needless to say, this became our mantra on Sunday. We heartily chanted "Burn the boats!" through the six mile mark flying down through the Place d'Italie, up the mild grade towards Bastille, through the seven mile mark we hit in one hour flat, through the 12.5 mile mark in 1 hour and 45 minutes. And even though I'd been scared to commit to competing--let's not forget I wasn't registered for this expedition--I'd committed myself fully to running that race as hard as I could when I crossed the start mat. But it got me thinking: what are we willing to burn the boats for? What are the things in life to which we are willing to fully commit, no matter how easy or how tough?

It's an important life question, because knowing what you are and are not willing to burn the boats for is a strong indicator of where your priorities lay, and even though in this context I applied the idea to my running, it's something that I feel will stick with me as I continue my journey over here in France. In fact, that's what I've been doing here, all along without knowing it--trying to figure out what boats to burn.

Burn the boats, folks. Burn the boats.


  1. This post is how I feel right now. You just "have to jump in with two feet" and put your all into it. Love you!