Monday, October 3, 2011

Bone Games

At the end of his interview with Christopher McDougall, the author of my and the world's favorite running book Born To Run, Shawn Donley - like Columbo - asks for one more thing.

"Shawn: Do you have any favorite running or adventure books you'd like to recommend to our readers?
McDougall: Do you know Bone Games
Shawn: I don't. 
McDougall: I've got it on my shelf. This book was jaw-dropping to me when I read it, and now I've probably given out about 15 copies. I gave it to Scott [Jurek], and Billy, and Jenn. Now whenever I see Scott, he's always quoting from it. It's by Rob Schultheis, and the full title is Bone Games: Extreme Sports, Shamanism, Zen, and the Search for Transcendence." 

I hunted the book down out of curiosity. It didn't disappoint. It's a weird book though. Certainly not a mainstream pageturner-bestseller like Born To Run. It's like comparing Comrades Marathon to Barkley Marathons. However they seem to share various themes in common, like a keen interest in Indians.
"In 1979, Bernard Fontana hired a an elderly Tarahumara Indian to carry a 65-pound earthenware jar out of a deep canyon in Northern Mexico; the man lugged it out, sixteen miles, by night and was home again by dawn.
What did they have that I didn't have? I think I know, at least part of it. A feeling of oneness with, closeness to, the world around them: running through, with, the landscape is a lot easier than running against it."
They both also feature epic trail running stories.

"Almost always, when you wear your body down to the nub and come to the crux of the ordeal, the spirit soars. Not this time: quite the opposite. I felt let down, disappointed, cheated. The last of the magic from those old, lonesome runs in Virginia was gone; looking inside myself, I couldn't find the slightest trace of it. 14,110 feet up, I wandered aimlessly over the filthy summit screes, a loser.

It reminded me of the infamous Afghan Cobra and Mongoose Trick, which had been pulled on me on my last Asia trip."

In some ways Bone Games reminds me of 127 Hours, but it's perhaps more complex and Zen-like than Aron Ralston's survival story. Let me put it this way: Bone Games is not likely to be turned into a Hollywood movie.

The first sentence of the book is: "In 1964 I fell off a mountain in the Colorado Rockies and came within a few inches of dying". The last sentence is: "It is still out there; and I will be back." What's in between is hard to put into words - you'd better experience it yourself.

"Magic becomes a kind of habit after we do the difficult, the near impossible, over and over and over again; a habit that operates down in those oldest and deepest levels of the brain and the mind. Where pain and fear can be alchemized into blissful, sublime confidence, and stumblebums wake up to find themselves dancing on the business end of pins."

So what are you still waiting for? Roll the bones!

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