We are spiritual animals in need of spiritual transcendence. It is an illusion of the age to suppose that the transcendence we need can be found by bodily means.
Distance running has repaid me richly for the hours and years I devoted to it. In my late twenties I got pretty good at it and I experienced those unbelievable highs that, wonderful as they are, are but simulacra of the flights of the spirit. I had the sense not to seek transcendence in the wrong places. And the sense not to abuse the mortal vehicle. Urinating blood after training runs and trashing my immune system by marathon training convinced me to take it easy on old fratello asino.
He who pushes too hard invites a premature exit from the wheel of samsara. This from The Wisdom of Running a 2,189 Mile Marathon:
To hear Jurek tell it, forcing himself to the limit is purifying and transformational. “Though man’s soul finds solace in natural beauty, it is forged in the fire of pain,” he writes. But listen closely, and bodily transcendence is not exactly grist for motivational posters. Jurek’s pages are haunted by comrades who didn’t make it through the fire unscathed. He was joined for part of the trail by Aron Ralston, the hiker famous for amputating his own arm to free himself from a boulder. Jurek’s friend Dean Potter, a legendary climber and base jumper, died in a wing-suit accident days before Jurek began his trek. “I had known ultrarunners to finish races as their kidneys were shutting down and they were losing control of their bowels,” Jurek reports. He recalls a runner who fought through debilitating headaches to finish a 100-mile race and then died of a brain aneurysm.