Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Long Walk

I recently reread an old Stephen King novel called "The Long Walk" which is the most disturbing of all the King novels I've read. Many things are left deliberately vague - we learn more as we read, and at the beginning we really have no idea what is going on - and this helps maintain the suspense. The setting is a kind of alternative reality where the US is run by a military dictatorship overseen by a mysteriously powerful figure known only as "the Major".

"The Long Walk" is the premier sporting event in this alternative reality, the premise being that each year a hundred 18 year old boys compete in an endurance walk from the Canadian border down through the State of Maine. The story is told in third person form from the viewpoint of the protagonist Ray Garraty, a participant in the walk. The last boy left standing wins "the prize" (yet another vague concept), but the catch is that once they're in the walk there are no rest stops and no quitting - unless they maintain a pace of at least 4 miles an hour they will be shot dead by the outriding soldiers. Thus 99 out of the 100 boys are literally on a death march. We only realize fully what is going on when the first boy "gets his ticket". The book concentrates on the relationships that develop between the walkers, the mental disintegration that takes place, and explores the grisly motivation of the onlookers. In other words an examination of human nature. Genuinely creepy.

I thought about this book a lot yesterday while I was running at McKinney Roughs. This was quite simply the worst run I've had in a long time. It was hot and incredibly humid, but I didn't feel good from the start. I had no energy and no motivation - I think I started out too fast and just didn't enjoy myself at all. I was planning on doing 30 miles, but stopped at 15 having drained and refilled my camelbak twice. I don't think anyone ran more than that, so at least I wasn't alone in feeling crappy.

On the other hand, I did a good two and a half hour run at Bull Creek this morning and felt as good today as I had felt bad yesterday. I don't have any explanation for this. It was just as hot and humid but I felt strong and fast, was able to hit the uphills hard, speed around the switchbacks, find good rhythm on the flats, and still have plenty left at the end.

I think I need to be more consistent with my running. I've build my marathon base over the last few years on regular midweek runs, and I haven't been keeping to them as I should of late. Having said that, we are moving into Texas summertime and I am in maintenance mode. I am starting to lean toward not doing the Arkansas Traveler 100 and instead doing a new 60k race that Joe is doing in Bryan the same weekend. That seems to fit my race calendar and buildup a little better.

Stay tuned though, I may have changed my mind again by tomorrow.

No comments: