I cherish my mind too much – or maybe fear it’s all too fickle, anyways – to drink alcohol or do drugs. The 100 mile Via Natura ultramarathon proved mind-altering, anyways…

One hears a lot about the runner’s high. Some stories sound as if being on the move, running, was not a natural activity that a human body is made for, but a mere possibility that people get hooked on because of the way it taps into the brain’s production of opiates.

It all belongs together, though.

Going barefoot (or “barefoot shoes”) or not, the human body probably did evolve so that we are “born to run.” And a part of the ability to go on may well be the production of opiates stimulated by the running and making it possible to go on and get self-drugged further. The brain works by chemistry, anyways.

The Via Natura ultramarathon had the additional element of sleep deprivation.

I thought I had some experience with that thanks to the night shifts I used to work for a while (when I had had to take a job as security guard to get by). I was mistaken.

Sunrise in the Seetaler Alpen

On the Via Natura, we went straight through the first night and on the next day, not sleeping until arriving at the third and final control point, some 27 hours after the start – and then, my stop there was a total of 45 minutes. Later that second night, even the husky with whom Stefan runs started falling asleep while moving and refusing to go on, at which point we all stopped again.

That had been and would continue to be a constant, the surprising realization that one could keep walking while actually having started to fall asleep.

Then and there, though, we crashed at the roadside, a little up, head on the running vest propped against a tree trunk, in my case. Wrapped up in the rain gear and with hat, hood, and gloves, it was sufficiently warm. Some raindrops hit the visor. After maybe half an hour, someone in the group noticed that the “hikers” were coming, turned on his headlamp again, and we all awoke and continued.

Hallucinated, I had before. There was the headlight of a van parked by the roadside, there to provide aid until it turned out empty, at an odd angle… and then turned out to be just the reflector strip of the roadside marking, finally. The place where we slept… I’m sure I’d been there, slept at a spot just like that – if not that very spot – before. When we continued, I took off for a little, got off track into a cow pasture… and I’m pretty sure the same thing had happened once before.

Many places, I felt like I’d been there before.

In part, it was easy enough to tell how they reminded me of one or the other of the (relatively few, after all) places where I’d been on such adventures before. The Alpannonia. The Ötscher. Areas I go more often.
Some places, though, it was the total deja-vu. Even while knowing that I’d never even been in that area before, let alone on those trails, I could have sworn and would still swear I’ve been there and did some of the same things before.

The paths we went up and across that one mountain where we also ended up sleeping for a little bit, on the side of the forest road. The very spot we slept. The wrong path I took just a little later, leading inside a cow pasture when it actually goes by just outside of it.

Old memories of similar situations combined with ideas of such places, rattled around my sleep-deprived brain, and came out as recollections of previous experiences I never actually had, the way they seemed (and still seem) to be remembered now.

It all still is a perfection of memories.

Fancies of exquisite delicacy…

…when the bodily and mental health are in perfection…

…where the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams…

 … where all that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.

(A Dream Within A Dream, Alan Parsons)