An adventure at the front door
January 31, 2013, 4:30 a.m. saw the start of the 24H Burgenland Extreme, a tour over some 120 km around the Neusiedler See lake. Born out of a slightly crazy idea (like many such events), which was to walk the bike path circling this, one of the largest, ‘steppe’ lake in Central Europe in the middle of winter, the event is now in its third year and had swelled to 600 participants.
Runners, there were only a few; the event continues to be more for hikers and pilgrims who just want to see if they can accomplish a tour like this. Some 200 would eventually finish. There are no rankings, no lists of results, there is only you, the ones you walk with (or don’t), the landscape, the wind and weather (there’s always wind in this area), and the path.
And so you run if you can and want to, you walk – and you pretty much crawl if you must.
That’s just the thing.
It is this landscape and its challenges that have informed many of my views on how a fascinating diversity to explore is not just found in the obviously different, but also in the ever-constant and yet ever-different cycles of life and the running in circles. The adventure is waiting right out the front door, if only we recognize it and ‘ad-venture‘ to seek it out.
There was quite a bit of a need for something almost like crawling this year (even as the conditions were considerably better than last year’s heavy snows and strong cold), as winter had finally moved in just a little while before, brought with it temperatures just around freezing with the usual cold wind and some bouts of rain and light snow – but mainly, it had dumped a snow cover that was just enough to either make walking a little more exhausting (if dampened) where the snow was still lying untouched or to make the ground very slippery wherever there had been attempts at cleaning it away, or where cars had driven, or where a few people had already walked. And that latter condition applied to almost everywhere. Cross-country skis often felt like they’d have been the best choice of ‘footwear.’
Where I live, it’s just 10 km to the lake, which is why I found myself interested in this event, or that tour, last year already. So much adventure awaits just out the front door, there’s no need to run – and ruin – the planet…
The landscape is barren, the wind is constant, the skies are often leaden – it has its beauty, but it’s a rather austere and harsh one. The cycling in summer is popular, there are good chances for bird watching, there is quite a bit of agriculture, but the landscape lacks the splendor of majestic mountains and sweeping vistas. Especially in winter, dreariness is what comes to mind, not outdoors sports. With fields blanketed by snow, one can easily imagine Mongol nomads feeling right at home…
Sure, it’s not so easy to just go out and find the adventure when it’s not wrapped up in an event like this, drawing together people and providing a bit of organization – and the whole organizing team, plus all the places that volunteered to serve as aid stations (Gasthof Weinzettl in Apetlon, the Seecafé in Podersdorf and the Pannoneum in Neusiedl am See) deserve a big praise; they made it all that little bit easier.
But, the adventure awaits anyways. One wouldn’t necessarily want to go out for something that long and exhausting when it’s just another day that would have to be made less ordinary – but then again, whether an ordinary day of relaxation or of excitement is spent enjoying the outdoors or spread out on the couch, whether it will be a time for fast trail running or leisurely window shopping, it’s all just a matter of what one has made normal for him-/herself.
So, why not make it normal to do that which is better, not just that which comes more easily? To explore, adventure, move, learn…
Me, I’m glad I could participate this year, start another year of adventuring with a successful tour – with challenges and problems, and the resilience to have overcome them – and looking forward to more. It’s my Chinese ‘birth animal’s’ year, the year of the horse, again, making it all-too-apparent that I’m at an age where I feel things should be different from how they are (the Chinese zodiac only repeats every 12 years…), meaning that I’ll want to change some things.
Good input, then, to suffer through an endurance event like this, learn how to handle it better next time and finish it no matter the challenges – and then go and apply the same tenacity to the problems of life where the same drive and tenacity need to come to bear until I finally finish what I set myself to, too.