Sheer Joy

I read this quote from George Mallory this morning, and it has stuck with me all day. This quote rings truer than the more famous, but questionably authentic "because it's there" response to "why climb Everest," and it really gets to the heart of why we take up these seemingly pointless challenges. Running isn't always sheer joy, but there are moments...running down an empty mountain trail after a demanding climb, an early morning run through the fog with a couple of friends, or sitting in the grass, drinking a beer in the sun after a particularly difficult race. These are the moments of pure, aimless, pointless, joy. I plan to read this quote many times in the coming weeks as the Canadian Death Race approaches, and to remember why I chose this particular adventure; it's because running in the mountains brings me joy, and what better reason is there to do anything?

The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for. 
--George Mallory, 1922

Mallory (right)

Sunrise over Everest from Kala Pattar (18,500')

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