Tag Archives: spinal tap

This One Goes to Eleven

One can find inspiration and insight wherever one wants – even in Spinal Tap.

This scene is only one of so many classic scenes that can be found in This is Spinal Tap . The movie is the first rockumentary, really a mockumentary about the heavy metal band Spinal Tap. The movie, the band, the music are all ridiculous and brilliant . You may have seen the movie and know all of this. But, did you know that if you watch it the right way or maybe just a different way This is Spinal Tap is also a movie about running.

Go with me on this.

A fictional band from England, Spinal Tap had their ups and downs and downs and downs. They experienced a few hits and the fame that came along with it during the good times. They experienced tough times too. A drummer spontaneoulsy combusting on stage (happens more than you think) had to have been rough on the guys! But they carried on show after show in smaller and smaller arenas. The size of the crowds or lack of crowds at their shows never dictated the effort they put into their rocking. They believed that they could not only get back to their former heights, which were not so high, but also reach even higher. They believed they could reach that great stage they set out for so many years ago.

As runners we are forced to set goals. Every time we start a run there is a goal – maybe even many goals. Run 5 miles. Run 10 miles. Average 6 minute pace. Hammer the hills. When we race it is the same, just more serious. Finish in top 10. Finish in top 100. Maybe just finish. Beat Mick. Beat Viv. Set a course best. Set a personal best. Goals and goals.

For awhile these goals get bigger, more impressive. We can train harder, hurt longer, run faster. The goals mirror these truths and we find ourselves training and running our best. During these periods, these good times, it’s easy or at least easier to take on the suffering and sacrifices of training and racing. Every time we take the line we may do something better than we ever have before! How can it not be easy and exciting? We can forget to embrace these periods while we are in their midst. We are so focused on achieving the next goal that we don’t stop, take that encore bow and soak it all up.

We concentrate on getting the next run in, workout done, race scheduled, anything that keeps us from getting in the way of the momentum. We don’t know how long a great stretch of running is going to last, when it is going to end. But those stretches do end. Sometimes the runs don’t get done easily. The exhilarating workouts with all the splits getting hit become exhausting workouts with all of the splits getting missed. Before, that hurt had to come to terms with you. Suddenly you have to come to terms with being hurt. When healthy and rocking it’s hard to really remember those times when you were hurt and every step was pain. It can be difficult to remember when any step without pain was a gift and just how awful it was to not be able to run. Why remember or draw attention to those tough times when every stride is coming easily, every race is a success, every show is sold out. Why think about those dark days?

Because those struggles are part of the tour. Those periods and moments are a part of the music you are playing and will play.

We shouldn’t only enjoy running or think we can only learn and improve when we are running well, or fast or better than ever. Spinal Tap knew this. They saw the bad times as nothing more than stumbles on their way to the top. Sometimes they simply ignore all the (overwhelming) evidence that shows they are failing, epically failing – every show in Boston gets cancelled, at least it’s not a college town.

The good and the bad times, both, inspired their music. The shows were not always sold out. They didn’t always get top billing. In fact, sometimes, even though Jeanine told them…

Jeanine: Uh oh. If I told them once, I told them a hundred times – Spinal Tap First. Puppet show last.

Derek Smalls: It’s a morale builder, isn’t it?

It was never all about the times was it? It was never all about the medals. Not really. It was about the the music you made. The sound of your shoes striking and leaving the ground, your breathing – labored or effortless – beautiful all the same, the pounding flicker- fast beat of your heart while hard at work or the heavy and powerful sleepy slow ba-booms of your heart while blissfully at rest. Running was never always about the competition or the number on the stick you got in the chute. If it was, then your love for this would be focused on things outside of you and that means they can leave. Yet, you know, that love for this sport begins and is centered inside you, where the melody and the rhythm reside.

It has always been about the music and everything good and bad should find its way into that music. Once in awhile get away from the PB’s, and the gear, and the medals and ribbons and expensive races. Be alone – and take care to listen to the run, to you. Hear the music you make for you.

So, when the runs get slower and those hills getting hammered get changed to the hills hammering you – keep running. Keep grinding up that slope. You may not be headlining the EnormoDome like Duke Fame is right now. Maybe you’ll never be headlining there. Not ever. It might be gigs at the Music Temple. And those gigs may be cancelled too. But play on brothers and sisters, there is always Japan.

If you do that you will know the greatest lesson Spinal Tap has for us band of runners – you can always rock out louder than ever. It may not be a lifetime best, it may not be the yearly best or the best anything. But it can be loud and powerful. You can turn that volume way way up on yourself.

Nigel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Martin: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel: Exactly.
Martin: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Martin: I don’t know.
Nigel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Martin: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Martin: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
[Pause.]
Nigel: These go to eleven.

I know exactly what Nigel is talking about. Sometimes ten just is not enough. Sometimes, when you’re playing guitar, running a race, living your life – you have to go to eleven.

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