It’s like this:
You want us to run a race for you. It’s a fast race and it’s hard race. And although we’re trained to run - we’re really good over a set distances, over specific range of terrains. You like us but you don’t like that terrain. You want us to go cross country rather than by the road - shortest distance between two points, and all that. We can do that, but it’s going to take us longer, we say. You don’t want us to take longer, in fact, you want us to break all our previous records and do it for the same cost of materials a road race would cost.
You’re a sweet talker. A charmer. We’re eager to please. Ready for a challenge, we express doubts about the success of finishing, let alone breaking any records, but decide “Hells bells! Let’s give it our best shot - we might just be able to do this.”
On your marks; get set; GO!
We’re off, we’re running. The terrain is uneven but we’re managing so far. We bought new shoes to suit the environment. We changed our carbo-loading routine to account for the extra energy needed to clamber over rocks and rivers. We’re full of energy - we’re powering ahead.
Then one of our new shoes breaks - the left one. Falls the fuck apart and we have one bare foot and one shoed foot. Have you ever tried to run on *any* surface with only one shoe? it slows us all the heck down. One of our team breaks from the race to go to the store to buy new shoes. We can’t just buy left ones, because shoes come in pairs, right? so that’s our shoe budget blown to smitherines. We continue, hobbling unevenly along - blisters on one foot, the other raw from the rough unpaved ground underfoot: but we’re still moving forward.
We’re using a lot more energy than anticipated now too - not sure how that will affect us on the race but we’re still pushing ahead.
Our teammate comes back with new shoes for everyone in the race. We stop for the amount of time it takes to put new shoes on. He bought socks too so now our feet are ensconced in comfort, support, and reliability. We power on. Renewed in our desire to get to the finish breaking all previous records. The hope in our hearts powering us forward.
But we’re slowing down again. The terrain is even more rocky and uphill than the map you showed us indicated. Our calorie intake is below what we need for this amount of effort. It feels more and more like we’re running up a continuous, rocky incline.
So you notice how hard the going is for us. You also notice that at our rate of forward momentum, we’re not going to break those records you wanted us to break. We watch you drive to the finish line, get out of your car, and move the finish line away another kilometre. After driving back to where we are still running forward you say “We saw you weren’t on track to break any records, so we’ve moved the finish line and you have more time to get there. Also, wear these coats - now you have more time to get to that further finish line, you can have more drag.”
Okay so we have a burst of speed. Our shoes are hold well, energy is pretty good but not great, but the heat and drag from the coats isn’t helping - neither is the fact we need to find the extra calories to run the extra kilometre.
But we keep going. Hope in our hearts, and all that jazz.
Then you move the finish line again, adding add hats and gloves.
We’re struggling - still moving forward but bogged down with the extra layers of clothing, and the ability to maintain energy is really starting to look like it’s going to be a real factor.
We run day, we run night, we are running on empty, but we keep running.
Then you move the finish line again. Even further away - and add skipping ropes for us to jump while wearing coats and hats and running and we’re tired and we have nothing left.
Then you move the finish line by 10 more kilometres.
“With all this extra distance to run” you say, “now you’re used to the rocks, the incline, the extra layers of clothing and the physical challenge of jumping rope while running cross country - we think you can put on eyepatches, and not use torches during the night while running. Okay? GO!”
We’re still moving forward - but our hearts are broken. We have nothing left to give. We gave you everything. Now we’re just running. Forward. Hot. Hopeless. We’ll finish, but we’ll be broken and not much good for anything else anymore.