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April 21, 2007

Bixby Bridge

Holy cow – it’s only one week until Big Sur!!!

Somehow, in the midst of all my triathlon training, tri-gear shopping, tri-inspired blogging, and Googling the race splits of reality TV stars, the Big Sur Marathon kind of snuck up on me. Talk about things I never thought would happen. I swear, this tri stuff is making me crazy.

Given the situation, I’m going to shift gears this week, and focus on marathon-related posts until the race on April 29th. It seems only fair; after all, using my relationship metaphor, Big Sur has given me 11 good years; the least I can do is give it a week in return.

Having said that, this first Big Sur post is kind of a cop-out, in that I’m recycling a very old essay I wrote for my previous website about the Bixby Bridge, which sits at the 13.1 mile mark of the marathon. On that site, the home page features two pictures of the bridge, and the essay gives my rationale for using them.

I'm justifying my use of the essay on this blog because, 1) Hardly anyone ever read my old website, 2) One of the photos from the old site is the one that’s currently on my masthead for this blog, and 3) After I posted it, a few people asked what bridge it is. [Oh, wait - and 4) I’m too lazy to type a whole new post. But mostly reasons 1 through 3.]

So the original essay is below. Keep in mind that I was a little younger and a lot stupider back then. When I read it now, it seems a bit contrived and overly philosophical. I copied and pasted it into this post, then sat down intending to make major revisions before I republished it.

Then something funny happened: as I went about the process of editing, I found that it’s still a pretty accurate reflection of how I feel about running, and some of the reasons (and reservations) I have about putting my ideas on display with this blog. So I pretty much left it alone, for better or worse.

Anyway – it’s a snapshot of where I was at one time, and it’s here for you to read today.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out a one-week taper for this year's marathon.

****

When considering various photographs to use for the home page of this website, there was no doubt in my mind that the final selection would include the Bixby Creek Bridge. It not only has great personal significance in my running career, but also represents many things I want this site to convey.

Whether or not you live on the Monterey Peninsula, you've probably seen the Bixby Bridge in photographs, or as the scenic backdrop of countless television commercials (especially for sports car companies). The stone arch traverses Bixby Creek, 13 miles south of Carmel, connecting the communities of Big Sur and Monterey on California's Highway 1.

Construction of the span across the deep, rugged, unstable canyon was lengthy and arduous, and was the primary obstacle in overall completion of the ambitious Coastal Highway project in the 1930s. Its minimalist design perfectly complements the natural beauty of the surroundings, yet the concrete arch is durable enough to withstand the harsh winds, tides, and land movements that define the area.

Bixby Bridge stands as a testament to how vision, dedication, and perseverance will eventually overcome any difficulty – and how the results often have lasting ramifications. Which makes it a very appropriate halfway point of the Big Sur International Marathon, one of the finest races in the world.

As beautiful and familiar as the bridge is, it is ordinarily very difficult to visit in person, as the narrow Highway 1 is quite dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians. The road is only closed to traffic on one day per year - the day of the BSIM. Therefore, race day is usually the only opportunity I ever have to set foot on the bridge.

Whenever I find myself striding across it, I'm always immersed in that elaborate blending of confidence, foreboding, passion, anxiety, discomfort and strength that one encounters at the halfway point of the marathon. Many years ago, Joe Henderson wrote a column in Runners' World about the Bixby Bridge during the BSIM, calling it a "bridge to the unknown" – in that we never truly know what awaits us in the last half of the race. Those words echo in my head every year as I’m striding across the bridge.

Since the days of ancient Rome, bridges have symbolized noble concepts: expanding your horizons, overcoming obstacles, bringing opposing sides together, providing safe passage, and so on. Their appearance and style also make statements about the people who build and utilize them; for example, compare the Brooklyn Bridge with the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite their dramatic visual differences, they are equally strong and functional, and they each perfectly complement their surroundings.

Remember when Bill Clinton spoke incessantly about building a bridge to the 21st century? I don't ever remember actually crossing it, but somehow we got here. Sometimes bridges are like that, too – and you don't realize how useful they were until you look back at where you came from.

I'm certainly not the first person to use a bridge metaphor to describe running. There are countless ways that this activity brings us to places we've never been before. There are all of the external examples, such as traveling to faraway cities for races, meeting new people in training groups, or heading down an unexplored trail on any particular morning. But to me, these are secondary in importance to the inward exploration that running offers.

Eternally behind us is the runner that we were, and off in the distance is the person we wish to become. Running is the bridge that carries us toward that different person - one who is happier, less stressed, more satisfied and self-confident, healthier, and probably thinner than before he or she started.

Running also leads us to untapped areas of our psyches that we wouldn't otherwise discover. Whether it's finding a creative or contemplative zone during a leisurely jog, or searching the depths for some psychological foothold to prevent complete system collapse during mile 23 of a marathon, it's only when we are running that we encounter those remote recesses of our minds.

So OK, you get the idea- running is a bridge. In the same manner, this website is a type of bridge, in that it is a point of crossing over from the reclusive, introspective person that I've been for more than 30 years now, to an extrovert who freely puts his thoughts and opinions out there for anybody to see.

It's a bridge from me to you, and no offense, but it honestly scares me a bit. As the site was being created, I felt that same mix of uncertain emotions that I feel when running across the Bixby Bridge at the halfway point of the marathon. Yet somehow I finally arrived at this point of crossing over, and I'm excited for what the rest of the road ahead may hold.

Another nice thing about bridges is that they can be traveled in either direction. That's where you come in. If you have something interesting to share, I'll always look forward to hearing from you. I hope this site will be a point of connection for those of us in the community of runners, or for anybody else who wanders across it. Whichever group you are in, here's hoping you enjoy the journey.

11 comments:

Backofpack 4/21/07, 11:36 AM  

Nah, that was a nice post. I liked it. I'm still planning on Big Sur for next year. This year, I'll be running Eugene while you're running Big Sur.

One of the things I like about your annual marathon - it brings you - Donald - back to your running roots. In my heart, I want to believe that you are still a runner at heart. I don't know why it's hard for me to see people shifting the focus to a tri - except that biking and swimming don't give me a thrill like running does. Selfish, I guess.

Matt 4/21/07, 3:59 PM  

It's always cool to go back and read old posts. Good read. We'll allow for the one week hiatus from all three sports as this community of bloggers are athletes as well and have tremendous respect for the marathon. Be safe and run wild.

Annette 4/21/07, 4:29 PM  

Now that I've read your post, I looked at the picture and remember driving over that bridge last summer. What a crazy road that is! I can see why they'd have to close it for the marathon. Now I'm kind of jonesing for a shot at that run. . . . maybe next year????? :)

Journey to a Centum 4/21/07, 7:30 PM  

Donald,

Clinging to the base of the bridge lies an area teaming with life in the waters below. Barnicles, Sea Anenomies, Worms, Mussels, and similar cretures. A community of life if you will. The blog or bridge you have built has also formed a community of like minded individuals who are still alive with wonder. Willing to learn from others and provide advice when compelled.

Thanks for digging out your old post and dusting it off for us.

Enjoy your taper, hopefully after you have crossed the bridge you will feel energized and bust out a negative split.

Tear it up!

Spokane Al 4/22/07, 6:48 AM  

Very nice look back and in many ways a look forward. After reading your stuff I have added the BSIM to my to do list.

Dori 4/22/07, 1:54 PM  

Beautiful essay, Donald. Makes me want to run BSIM. I'm moving to Cambria and always take Hwy 1 when I fly into or out of SFO. It's my favorite drive.

Enjoy your taper!

SkiRough 4/22/07, 3:25 PM  

You just sent me on a complete tangent of reading lots of your old blog entries... and I must say, you are a prolific writer! Now I shall browse the archives when I have free time as well.

I am thinking of doing Catalina marathon next spring, another gorgeous Cali run... perhaps I'll put BSM on the list as well!

jeanne 4/23/07, 5:32 AM  

wait...i thought you QUIT BLOGGING! Why doesn't anyone ever tell me anything?

robtherunner 4/23/07, 6:33 AM  

I was wondering when you were going to mention Big Sur. I thought you might have forgotten about it with the lure of the triathlon mistress taking over all your ability for good decision making. I enjoyed the old post as well.

Deene 4/23/07, 8:27 AM  

beautiful location to stop for a snapshot. I have a couple of pictures of Bixby bridge from our almost annual road trip along the coast highway.

angie's pink fuzzy 4/27/07, 7:39 AM  

that bridge - from my childhood - haunts my dreams. i love it, it's gorgeous, but my deep deep fear of bridges comes from that particular bridge. for some reason, after the 1989 earthquake (where cars plunged off the bridges in SF), I became deathly scared of riding over big bridges like that - scared an earthquake would shake me off.

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