Yesterday, I took an easy jog. Today, I took a just as easy jog. Tomorrow, I race. I love running. I love running hard. I generally am bored with the easy jog days, but I can’t run hard every day. Racing? I love it. And I hate it. It’s all I’ve been thinking about today, to be honest.
This video illustrates conversations I have about once each day:
I am a runner. Long ago, that statement meant something to me. I had what I look back upon now as “a lost decade” of running. It wasn’t lost in all areas – I grew tremendously in my faith, we had 4 awesome daughters, I had the privilege of witnessing countless teens grow in their faith, and I was married to the Wifey of the Universe the entire time. So it was a great decade – just not for running.
A few years ago, I refound this important part of myself. And people shake their heads at me. They think me crazy. The don’t get it. They think it’s about exercise. Or that we’re just dumb. And then I hear all the jokes. (Some of which are included in the video above.)
The late Dr. George Sheehan puts into words why I run much better than I ever could:
“I am a runner. Years ago that statement would have meant little more to me than an accidental choice of sport. .. Now I know better. The runner does not run because he is too slight for football or hasn’t the ability to put the ball through a hoop or can’t hit a curveball. He runs because he has to. Because in being a runner, in moving through pain and fatigue and suffering, in imposing stress upon stress, in eliminating all but the necessities of life, he is fulfilling himself and becoming the person he is.”
I’ll get back to one of the greatest authors on the topic in a bit, but I can’t overemphasize the awesomeness of this quote for me. I run because I have to. Quentin Cassidy in the cult novel “Once a Runner” tell us that he runs because the demons make him. He runs to control those demons. And once he’s got them controlled, once the orb is settled down, he can unleash those demons in his race until he is chased to become his very best.
I’m not a very fast runner, but I have goals. I know, for instance, that I can’t go out too fast – I’ll slow too much later on. Neither, however, can I go out too slowly and leave too much ground to make up. It’s all strategy – it’s all the thinking person’s game – every single step – every surge, every hill, from the warm-up through the finish line. Everything must be thought out and timed, and controlled. Emotions simply get in the way. They make us lose control.
I run because it stretches me, pulls me, challenges me, holds me accountable, pushes me to be more than I am. Tomorrow is the race, but tomorrow, except for the decisions and the emotions, has already been decided. I’m in as good a shape for a race like tomorrow’s (a 10 miler) as I have been in 11 years. There’s only one thing standing in the way of an awesome race… cue George Sheehan:
“Who, then, is the enemy? I have found my enemy and he is me. The runner’s confrontation is with himself. …I have no need to psych myself up for a race. Sight and sound and smell will to that unbidden. And this reaction must be curbed, not encouraged. I have no need for short-lived bursts or superhuman energy. My game is endurance. My object perfection. My race is a product of training, determination and reason.” (All quotes taken from Dr. George Sheehan’s Running & Being, copyright 1978.)
Tomorrow, I put myself out there, I take the risk, and I challenge myself. My goal: to walk away knowing I have run the best possible race I could have.
A huge assist on my ability to run daily and to push myself in the occasional race goes to my wife. Without her support, I simply wouldn’t be able to do this. I never take that for granted. My kids also support it – asking about it, cheering me on for races, or when I’m on the treadmill. My family knows – this is something daddy needs to do.
I’ll pray for you, especially because you don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. But at least the Easter Bunny is safe.