I have been involved in the world of endurance sports, marathoning and to a less degree cycling, for the past 7 years. During this time, I have learned a great deal about training, sports nutrition, electrolytes, recovery and other health factors. I have also learned a great deal about human nature and myself.
For me, these events are about collecting personal experiences and applying them to life to become a better person. Time does not matter to me at all. In fact, I do not understand those who run exclusively for time goals, allowing a clock to dictate whether or not the experience was worth it. When I hear “I finished first in my age group. . . ” or “I did my marathon in such and such a time. . . . .” I am waiting for the rest of that sentence, which invariably never comes. For me, it would be very hollow but that is just my view. Not wrong. Not right. Just my way.
Though I have countless examples of stories, experiences, lessons and the like from my running, here are my top 5 most memorable moments. In no particular order:
1. Celebration, FL 10K. At around the 3.5 mile mark, a dog (or was it a horse) – a 150 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback — came rushing toward me. Pretty sure he was going to eat me or something. Instead, he became my pacer for a couple of tenths of a mile. I have never laughed so hard in my life. Here I am trying to grab and hold his collar while this moose is dragging me along. It was like a scene from the Flintstones – Fred using his feet as brakes. Everyone around me was in stitches! Except for the owners.
2. Same event. Different Year. I took an aikido seminar on the Friday and Saturday before this event and had my knee rolled up on, injuring it. It was swollen and sore and needless to say, I was in a foul mood. I signed up for 2 races that day – the 10K followed by the 5K and didn’t want to do either at the moment.
For the first 3 miles of the 10K, I complained, blamed that person for not paying attention, despite it being my responsibility exclusively, and not surprisingly drew all sorts of negativity my way. Then I turned the corner (how metaphorical is that) and saw a young boy, about 10 years old, laughing and smiling like never before. I never saw such a happy person and realized the HE was running the event more than I was! It shifted my mood instantly and I began to appreciate the surroundings and the wonderful opportunity I had in the beautiful town of Celebration, one of my favorites. I let go of the prior 2 days events and was in the Now, enjoying the run and the magnificent scenery.
I did not do the 5K that day but ended up running two events anyway – the first half the 10K and the second half.
By the way, the boy was in a wheelchair.
3. My 1st marathon and this last one. At about the 25.7 mile mark of my first marathon, I saw a man sitting on the bench, running shoes off, number off, crying his eyes out. He was done for the day. I remember saying to myself,“How could he quit?! I would crawl if I had to.”
This past marathon was the second leg of the Goofy Challenge and it was very cold and snowing (in Florida!). Given the weather and the challenge of the event itself, I was exhausted and by the time I got to the 25.7 mile mark, I was sure I could not finish. At that moment, I remembered my first marathon, the man crying by the bench that was now all of 8 feet away from me and mostly, my reaction, complete with all the righteousness and ego I could muster.
At that moment, I experienced a deep sense of compassion and realized how much more powerful and appropriate compassion is . . in that situation and in so many others. So many others. . . as in ALL others.
I could recall virtually every step of every marathon I ever did but I have no memory whatsoever of going from mile 25.7 to the finish line that day.
What I did learn about is the value of compassion.
4. Water and Marathon #3. At my third marathon, they ran out of water at one of the stop around the 18 mile mark. I was angry. At the next stop, the water was warm and horrible tasting. Given this and the fact that I was very tired, I was not a happy runner.
I met someone from some poverty-stricken country that he mentioned. I was just really to join a the small crowd ahead, complaining about the water when my new friend started telling me about his country, and how water is more precious than gold. It was the one of the most difficult stories to hear – the agony that so many people suffer due to lack of clean water. And here I was. . . .
From this day forward, I continue to have an ever growing appreciation of water, and the other things I took (and still take at times) for granted in this beautiful country we call America.
5. My second Goofy Challenge. My wife Lisa received the news that her Dad had pancreatic cancer. He had a year to live.
Add to this that she was feeling horribly physically.
Plus she does not like Disney events.
And hates the heat. It was about 90 degrees on both days.
Despite all of the above, she started and finished both events.
There are times when I think I simply cannot. Then I remember those 2 days in January and am reminded that I live with someone who could not, but did anyway.
So I do.
There are about 50 other life changing events over the years. Some are tear-jerkers. Others are hysterical. The above are the ones that meant the most, at least so far.