"And that's where it stands right now. We have to carry the conquest forward. And carrying it forward is either going to destroy the world or turn it into a paradise--into the paradise it was meant to be under human rule."We are overcomers. Athletes, I mean. We overcome things. We overcome time and distance and genetics and exhaustion and the ever-present, niggling thought (which comes at us through voices both external and internal): "You can't do this."
We are overcomers.
Here's my question: At what point does overcoming switch to conquest?
The issue is that I've been reading this book. And having read this book, I've begun to look at my life in the context of conquest. Of reclamation. Of forced submission. Because the author argues (in this book) that the drive to conquer is a huge problem for the human race. Humans seem to have this need to force nature to submit. We take oil the earth. We move trees, grasses, animals, hell, even mountains out of the way to make room for our expansion. We spread out farther and farther, extending our reach into the wilds. And the mentality behind this--whether explicit or implicit--is that this world is a battlefield. The earth is trying to resist our expansion, this is our battlefield, and we have to win.
The problem is, if we win we also lose. Because this isn't our battlefield; it's our home. So if we end up conquering the world, we've destroyed our only means of survival.
Or so the author's argument goes. I leave it to you to decide (but I do suggest that you read this book).
What does this have to do with endurance?
Conquest, my friends; conquest. If I decide that I'm going to go on a 10-mile run and my body, at around mile 8, says, "Hell no! Leave me alone! Let's go have ice cream!" and I make it keep going, I've conquered my body, yes?
The problem is, I don't see most endurance athletes fitting into this paradigm. Sure there are a few assholes out there, but for the most part, the endurance athletes I know love life, love the earth, and are remarkably in tune with their bodies, their minds, their spirits, their communities, and their world.
So I'm hesitant to label our endurance training process as conquest; I think it's more a process of overcoming. In fact, I think the two are not at all the same. Because endurance training--difficult as it is--does not treat the body as a battlefield. It treats it as a home. It recognizes that this home is capable of some pretty remarkable things. It is extremely concerned with the health of this home. It is a constant pursuit of making this home better (rather than what we want it to be). It involves overcoming the obstacles, the imperfections, the problems that face the athlete in order to become more whole, more in tune with the body, more naturally healthy. It looks at strengths and weaknesses, uses the one for all its worth and shores up the other. It works in concert with the body, not against it.
But there is a fine line between the concepts I've introduced here, you understand. Can you see how easily the overcoming can turn into a conquest? When you begin to feel your body work against you. When you begin to push beyond the limits of health to eke out a few less seconds, a few more miles. When you feel your body deteriorating, but keep going anyway. When you look in the mirror, say, "This will not do," and vow to be more disciplined so that you may cut part of your body away. When you no longer see your body as a partner--as more than a partner, as a concrete part of yourself.
Well, then you're no longer an overcomer.
You're only a conqueror.