Gretchen recently wrote a really nice piece grappling with the fleeting nature of contentment and the urge to achieve more. A few days later, AJW also wrote a really nice piece comparing and contrasting Tim Twietmeyer’s 25-year body of work at Western States with Kyle Skaggs’s 2008 Hardrock. Thought-provoking stuff, to be sure. In describing Kyle’s race AJW used a term that caught my eye:
By contrast, in the early spring of 2008, Kyle put his life on hold, moved to Silverton, and over the course of 5 months whipped himself into the best shape of his life. He learned the nuances of every climb on the Hardrock course and internalized every rock, twig and creek crossing. Then, with the calm and deliberate focus of a monk (emphasis mine), proceeded to run what could go down in history as the perfect race.
Not knowing Kyle personally and given the silence from and about him since the race, I’ve always chosen to think of his 2008 Hardrock not as a supernova but a sand mandala. In this way of looking at it, he painstakingly built a masterpiece of expressive mountain running and then, rather than try to preserve or extend it, swept it up and cast it into a river. The race and its preparations were an accomplishment of supreme mental and physical discipline; eschewing competition thereafter an act of profound humility.
The time Kyle ran is probably the least interesting part of it for me. I suppose the record may, in some way, be necessary to the story. But I honestly would have a hard time caring less about where Kyle’s Hardrock fits within the competitive history of the sport. To me, it’s more beautiful and inspiring as a symbol of the transcendent possibility of loving something completely yet without ego, of the drive to realize our human potential in full acknowledgement of the impermanence of existence.