Monday, April 25, 2011

Why I Run Marathons.

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep." - Robert Frost

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."  - Steve Prefontaine

  I am not good. I can be, but often I'm not. I'm not talking about running, but life in general. In fact, running is one of the handful of things that I am good at. But at life in general, I usually come up short. And I don't mean this in an insincere/self-deprecating/self-pitying/fishing-for-sympathy-and/or-compliments, kind of way. And I don't think that this is how others view me. My life is full of loving/caring/supportive friends and family. I'm also not saying that I'm unhappy. I have a wonderful life, full of wonderful people and experiences, and I feel incredibly fortunate. 

  And it is not in spite of those truths that I say I am not good. (It may even be partially because of them.) I am not good, because I give up. I give up on myself and others. I make excuses. I lie to myself and to others. I am selfish, cowardly, and cruel. I am all of these things. And the truth is that I am all of them often. 

  I choose to see the worst in people. I choose to consider their shortcomings rather than their strivings. I choose to take advantage of people when they're vulnerable. I pass people by when they are in need, and sometimes I even choose to kick people when they're down. 

  I also let myself down. I am terrified of failure, of not being good enough. And I am terrified of being discovered as a phony. So I set my goals low, and when I still come up short, I pretend that the goals have changed. Whether in my private endeavors or in my relationships with friends and family, I retreat into my shell when things get tough. 

  I hit my lowest point nearly twenty years ago. My big brother is the strongest and bravest and most beautiful person I've known. And when he died a slow death, I wasn't there. I was physically there. But mentally and emotionally, I wasn't with him. I was with myself. Worried only about myself. But he stayed with me anyway. 

  And he still does. And I'm still wrapped up in myself. But I'm trying. Little by little, year by year. I'm trying to be better. But I'm not always honest about that effort. Sometimes I stall. Sometimes I wander off the path. And a long time can pass before I recognize and admit that I'm not moving in the direction that I want to move. 

  And this can happen when I run too. I can get lost in the simple pleasure of movement. I can settle into the motions that my body knows well. I can roam the soft hills of my life, and I can keep the jagged mountains on the periphery. 

  But I want to be better than that. I want to push harder. I want to go further. I want to be better. I want to remember that I have so much more in front of me. But I have to work to find it. I have to work to find the best in myself, and in others.

  So I run marathons. Marathons allow no lies. The marathon is the truth machine. Marathons demand the best of me, and as I move among my fellow runners I can see the best in them. I can see them struggle as I struggle. And if I haven't worked hard enough, the marathon will tell me so. If I've taken short cuts, the marathon will expose them. But if I have worked hard enough, if I have been honest with myself, then I will find a sense of peace that I have never known anywhere else. 

  And my brother is with me when I run. His picture is in my pocket for those 26.2 miles. And I  hold his smile in front of me. He is reminding me to be better, and convincing me that I am.

(Thank you Dad, for helping me find the beauty in running.)

1 comment:

  1. Chris, I am so glad you invited me to this. Absolutely beautiful and bare and raw, as good writing is and should be. I do hope you are planning to eventually publish because the world would be graced by your thoughts.