Apparently men don’t express their emotions very well. I was dating a woman last year and she asked me how in touch I thought I was with my emotions, and I told her I thought I was pretty in touch with them, and she didn’t seem impressed. Her reaction was more as if she knew I wasn’t in touch with my emotions. Personally I think you would have to ask my sister and my parents how well they think I am in touch with my emotions. Especially as a new friend, I’m not going to open up to you the same way I would for a more established friend, because I don’t want you to rip out my heart and crush it.
Saturday at the 100 km world championships less than 10 miles into the race, I was choking up as the emotion consumed me. I was actually choking up. I am 90% sure that whatever problem I am having it is not asthma. That being said, I have to breathe like a race horse just to jog 9:00 miles and when I allow myself to succumb to the emotion of crying my throat constricts and I can’t get nearly as much air in and out. So I was actually choking a bit while trying to fight off the tears as I jogged and walked.
The tears came because I have wanted for years to be on the 100k Team USA. I know that I have what it takes to be top 10 in the world in the 100k. I was the third alternate this year (last person with a chance to be on the team), and with all of the talent in the US, I’m not sure I will ever be on this team again. It wasn’t how I imagined it. It wasn’t how I wanted my experience to be. It’s like being in the front line of the first landing craft storming Omaha beach on D-Day, you know how it’s going to go, and that's not good for you. I thought there was only about a 5% chance I finish the race, and I dropped out at 40 km.
After the race I walked out about 1 km into the loop to cheer on our team and others that I thought might understand some of my English. Multiple times the emotions overwhelmed me and more tears came as I sat tired and hungry in the shade watching the race progress as I sat on the sideline. Watching the more marathoner than ultra marathoner men slow down in the end and knowing I have the strength to close well after 90 km was frustrating. Watching the women on our team who were out on the course up to 90 minutes later than the men as the temperature rose to a reported 86F was emotional. How do you watch someone willfully suffer? Finally, I cried for the people, and especially women who live a life so foreign from mine.
One of the Mexican men had serious leg spasms and cramps 30 feet from me and so I walked over so he could hold onto me and attempt a stretch. He hasn’t had the same opportunities I have had. There was the first ever Indian ultra running team of four men and one woman at these championships. India has so much potential to be a distance running powerhouse with their combinations of more than billion people, poverty, rural areas, and high altitude, that it was great to see them in their first international ultra competition. Also, my heart went out to the Indian woman. Women in India, with it’s lingering caste system and more defined class hierarchy simply don’t have anywhere close to the opportunities (on the average or at the median) that I have had as a white American male. Similarly, there was a woman from Lebanon at the race, and no men from Lebanon. What she has probably had to go through to get to the point of racing this is probably far more than I have had to push for or deal with.
Instead of a white American male born to parents who are still married after 35 years who value education and hard work I could have been born a woman in poverty in a part of the world where I would never get much education, married off as a child, and really never be valued like the human every one of us is. It breaks my heart, and four hours of running with an average heart rate of 180 leading up to a DNF at a race I have dreamt of for years will accelerate those emotions right to the surface.
Sure, I can describe why I cried on Saturday, but words don’t fully communicate the emotions I felt. In between runners in rural Croatia on Saturday I laid down in the grass on the side of the road. The movie Inside Out well described the complexities of emotions as we age, but it failed to differentiate between the depths of emotion. Sure I was sad enough to cry about my dream of a top 10 finish at the 100k world championships being shattered due to what I think is a lung infection of some kind. But what the Indian woman who ran on Saturday represents is even more powerful. Laying there on the side of the road I felt positive and negative all at once. (I did watch Star Wars last week…) The amazingness of the day in Sveti Martin, Croatia, of my 32 years of life, my many enormous opportunities, and yet my failure on the day, which is my second world championships failure, the difficult plight of people and especially women around the world.
In summary, men do have emotions.