I am a pretty sentimental person. I’ve kept every single one of my race bibs–most of them are hanging, pegged on a cork board in my room. I don’t keep them because the pieces of muddy paper mean anything. I keep them because each one of them brings back a flood of memories–a PR, a time when I helped a friend through their first ultra, a lesson learned the hard way, the time when I fought through something really tough to finish, a time when I didn’t finish at all and a reminder of how that felt, a win and how that felt too. Maybe I’ll get rid of them one day, most likely I won’t. If they get lost or stolen or burned to the ground, in the end, they are just pieces of paper. I won’t cry over them and it’s not the end of the world. But until that time comes, they are also experiences, memories, accomplishments. Anyone who sees them as pieces of paper doesn’t see their true value. Same goes for buckles.
I failed to get to the start line of not one, but two 100-milers last year. Anyone who thinks just finishing a 100-miler is hard doesn’t know the half of it. I respect anyone who got to the start line and took that first step, it’s a lot more than I was capable of doing last year. And to those of you that finished? Major kudos. While I’m in no particular rush, I can only imagine the feeling I’ll have when I cross that finish line after 100 long painful miles and someone puts a heavy ole belt buckle in my clammy, swollen, dirty hands. I’ll probably cry and that belt buckle will be the most valuable thing I’ll ever own–because it’s something I earned, in the most impossible way, and something that can’t be purchased. Owning one means you went through hours, maybe days of blisters and chafing and nausea and sore muscles and screaming feet. It means you worked for months, gave up hours each day to train, sacrifice to accomplish a goal. Seeing someone wear one means they went through all of that and maybe more that you aren’t even aware of. Maybe they thought they would never be able to do it, maybe they were told they would never be able to do it. Maybe they tried numerous times before they finished one. Maybe that buckle means more to them than just finishing a 100-miler, even. Maybe it means being the person they’ve always wanted to be.
Every day, I meet someone through my work at SFRC who is training for their first 100. I talk to people on a daily basis who look up at Ann Trason’s Western States cougar trophy, or Alex Varner’s CR-setting black Kigers, or the epic photo of Mike Wolfe’s blood spattered singlet en route to his win at North Face 50 and wonder if they’ll ever be able to get into Western States, finish a Quad Dipsea, get injured in a 50-miler and keep on going… The Leadville trophy, the USATF championship banner, the signed jerseys… they’re all more than just objects, they symbolize the best in our sport. Not just the fastest, but the spirit of what trail and ultra running is all about–the best it has to offer. Every June, parents come in to SFRC to show their kids the line of Dipsea trophies behind the counter at SFRC. They look at those shiny cups and think, one day, I want one of those. It’s the same look I see in customers’ eyes when Jorge (or Stephen or Brett) wears one of his shiny buckles, “one day, I want one of those”. And it’s not the buckle, they want the experience. Not one of those people would buy a buckle if we sold them at SFRC, a dime-a-dozen commodity. Because they don’t just want it, they want to earn it. Those who know its true value also know that its priceless.
It’s not JUST a buckle. It’s so so much more than that. Owning a buckle means more than the buckle itself. Anyone that has overcome odds (lottery odds or real odds), worked hard through training, fought hard for a finish, knows. One of my friends finally finished her first 100-miler in under 24 hours (after two painful DNFs). The race didn’t have a buckle at the end of it. She didn’t just run it for a buckle. But of course, none of us do.
The buckle isn’t just a buckle. It’s more than a buckle. Duh.
It’s NOT about this…
Not at all. Just like it’s definitely NOT about this…