I had written an entirely different editorial for today, but when Brent Boyer told me that a story about my wife, Jennifer's, attempt at the Leadville Trail 100 last weekend would be the lead story in today's Sports section, I thought a different commentary would be in order. You probably are asking yourself what a grueling, high-altitude, 100-mile trail race has to do with Conservative political philosophy. The truth is, it is a great illustration of the conservative mode of thought.
Let me assure you that there is nothing easy about the Leadville Trail 100. The racers run 100 miles, almost entirely above 10,000 feet, climb as high as 12,600 feet, cross timberline 4 times and make two river crossings. The race must be completed in less than 30 hours. There is no time to sleep. Conditions range from heat at midday to cold at night. There almost always is rain and sleet to contend with. As race organizer, Sen. Ken Chlouber, says of the event, "Let pain be your friend. It will always be with you."
Conservatives often speak of personal freedom, personal achievement and personal responsibility. That is what the Leadville Trail 100 is all about. The event is a graphic illustration of life in general and the challenges it presents to us all. Faced with this daunting challenge, the participants take it on and assume responsibility for themselves. The training is extreme and involves months of long-distance and high-altitude running. Jennifer typically runs more than 100 miles during several weeks leading up to the race and makes several single runs of 50 miles or more. This effort is necessary for her to have any chance to succeed. If a runner fails to prepare properly, then the runner bears the responsibility for the result. There is no government bailout.
Life outside the race is really no different. We are all beset with challenges to overcome. Real effort, planning and determination are required to succeed. While at times we are the victims of poor luck, as Jennifer was this year with a stomach virus during the race, or the beneficiaries of good fortune, like exceptionally good weather during a race, by and large we all receive the results that our skills and efforts dictate. Believe me, Jennifer's prior finishes at the Leadville Trail 100 in 2002 and 2005 were plainly the results of a great deal of hard and smart work.
And so, as a general matter, we should all be more willing to bear the responsibility for our choices and our actions. We also should not do others the disservice of thoroughly insulating them from the consequences of their actions, because to do so prevents them from learning and self-improvement, and that hurts all of us. We should all learn from our disappointments and strive to improve. We should face our daily challenges with courage because, like pain during the race, they will always be with us. As my fifth-grade teacher, Violet Burton, who recently died at the age of 100, used to say, "Can't never did nothing. Never say that you 'can't' do anything."
You will find no greater cheerleaders than me and my conservative friends. We are all about personal achievement and celebrate and encourage it at every opportunity.
As my friend, Senator Chlouber, is fond of saying, "You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can."
That does not just apply to 100-mile trail races.
Rick Akin is an Attorney practicing in Steamboat Springs and Austin, Texas, a former member of the Pilot and Today Editorial Board, and a Director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.