Angel Fire

In high school I ran the mile race on the track team. I was not quick enough to compete with the sprinters. The mile race was considered more an act of stubborn determination than a race; at least the way I ran it. We assumed in those days that a one mile race was the maximum capability of a human being. One step beyond that and your body would dissolve into individual molecules and disappear into the cinders on which we ran. It was also assumed by much of the general public that the human body probably could never run a mile in less than four minutes.

Then wonder of wonders, one historic day in 1954, May 6 to be exact, Roger Bannister of England clocked a mile under four minutes. Then wonder of wonder of wonders a month and a half later John Landy of Australia did the same thing. Today wonder of etceteras four high school runners have beaten the impossible four minute clock.

Nearer the other end of the human life cycle people we considered “Ancient of days” when I was young are now clocking 50 to 100 times the one mile barrier that we high school runners staggered to. I happened to be in a hotel room in Hawaii that was on the finish line of the Iron man race. I heard the announcer call the number, name and age of contestant who crossed that line having completed a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike race, and a 26.2 mile marathon run. One man who crossed the line was 59 years old. We used to think anybody this old in a race this long could cross the finish line only if the body was being carried by pall bearers.

The scenes you see here will be viewed by runners in an upcoming relay race in New Mexico next September. By then the snow will be gone. Our son Josh is one of the organizers. He and I were mapping the 180 mile course. Relay team members will take turns handing off the baton, and no person will run the whole distance, but each one of them will run far beyond the one mile drop dead limit we high school track enthusiasts imposed on ourselves. Also we ran a level track. These people will go from the relatively flatlands to a ski resort in the mountains named Angel Fire. These are not professional runners, just people having a good time with their friends.

I’m still not ready to admit that middle to Methuselah age run of the mill runners are in better shape than we were at age 18. But I readily admit to one thing. They think they can do it, and we were convinced we couldn’t.

So I ask myself as I often do, “What other marvels, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social would we humans accomplish if we only believed? As the old saying goes, “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”