You often hear the adage “it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters”, or words to that effect. And I often hear runners describe how crossing the finish line can feel like a fleeting experience that, although bursting with an overwhelming sense of achievement does not necessarily endure. Ultrarunner Sam Gash talks about feeling an immense sense of loss and emptiness after completing a major challenge, and other ultrarunners describe how the ‘black dog’ awaits them at the finish line.
Meanwhile Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the Buddhist monk, author and runner advises that we should first determine an “ultimate motivation” in life as well as in running in order to identify our immediate direction and intermediate goals. And I lose count of the runners who say that signing up to a race is the best motivation for sticking with a training plan. I wonder then whether setting an objective is to some extent just a means to an end, to create the opportunity for a ‘journey’? Or can you have a perfectly good journey without first setting a destination? Some might call that freedom, while others would see it as just being aimless.
I set an objective myself 2 1/2 years ago when I signed up for a 10K race while living in Singapore. It was the the first running event I had entered for a long time and it triggered a journey for me that has since taken in 2 more 10K’s, 13 half marathons, 2 marathons, a 50k ultra, £2,500 raised for charity, 30lbs (13.6kg) lost around the middle, 85% lower intake of alcohol and a blog.
This succession of bucket list ticks has unfolded because as each challenge is met it creates a void, a vacuum that must then be filled by a subsequent challenge, a new goal, a fresh aspiration, the next objective, new destination. It is a self perpetuating and seemingly never ending cycle. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so, not for me anyway; my recent journey has been mind-blowing so far and I am loving every step. So yes, I do think it is the journey that really counts after all, and long may mine continue. But targets are necessary along the way too, you need them to at least signpost your journey.
My next major destination is the 2 day 100K Race To The Stones in July. The journey to this has been under way for a while. Signing up for the Sussex Coastal Trail Marathon on March 19, to increase my experience in trail marathons has meant following a training plan through the cold, dark, wet evenings of January and February. Sure, the journey counts, it’s just not always a picnic!
If there’s no destination will there still be a path to follow?