I was doing one of the long runs in my base training this week and my mind was doing its usual short-attention span theater that I use to keep myself from simply repeating “right foot-left foot-right foot-left foot” for the entire length of my run. Around the time I was hitting my fifth mile, my mind started flipping the pages back to a time when I saw running a little bit different from the way I do today. Back in the day when running was a punishment from an overzealous football coach. Back in the day when running was only done in its most natural form – away from someone chasing you. Back in the day when the idea of recreational running, to me, seemed about as likely as recreational flying.
Back in January, I posted the first Flashback Friday with the thought that it might be something I would revisit regularly as the inspiration struck me. Though I haven’t gone back to the archives since, as I put in my miles this week, I started thinking about the connection between running and that snapshot in time thing. What I get out of running is not what most people would imagine. You could argue that the health benefits of running are questionable at best. Sure you’re burning calories and strengthening your cardiovascular system, but you’re also putting your joints through hell and back. In fact, I’ve learned quickly that marathon training is as much about injury management as it is the actual running.
What I get out of running is competition. Not competition with others, mind you, but competition with myself. I’ve never gone to a race expecting to beat anyone. I train for two things – to try to beat my last time and to keep the race from beating me. As much as we like to think that the key to life is to always be looking forward and never spending time dwelling on the past, recognizing where we’ve been and trying to be better this time is one of the things that inspires me. Even the finish line isn’t the end of the race. The day that I decide that I’ve run the best race/time that I can possibly run is the day that I’ve quit trying.
As I was wrapping up that run, I remembered that I had captured the experience of my first 5K six years ago. I went back through my archives and found the piece that I’d like to share today. On June 16, 2007, I finished my first 5K when at the Komen Race For The Cure in Detroit.
[important]36:04 (Originally published on 6/18/07)
The time it took to complete a goal… to keep a promise… to make good on my word.
Well, more accurately, one year, thirty-six minutes and four seconds. The time it took to talk myself in and out of running the race literally a hundred times.
Over six minutes longer than my “best time” on a treadmill. Running in an environment that was not what I found out on Woodward Avenue on Saturday morning. The treadmill doesn’t capture the emotion of being in the moment. In the sea of people. Seeing the parade of men, women and children of all shapes and sizes who have banded together to support the fight against breast cancer.
A long time to feel your heart sink as you ran past sign after sign, name after name of the brave women (and men) who couldn’t be there on that picture perfect morning to run by ours sides. Their race had already been run.
A million chances to glance down at the smiling face on the front of my sweat soaked T-shirt and see my Mom’s face smiling back. Her eyes sparkling like they did on the day the picture was taken – my wedding day. Just four short years before she’d crossed her final finish line.
Time to count the tears on the faces of the Survivors that clapped and beamed at the runners as we hurried by. Their faces lighting up brighter than the sun knowing that we were all there to help bring on a day where we’ll run to celebrate the end this awful disease.
I wouldn’t trade a single second.
I want to take a quick second to thank all of my friends and family who supported me and the cause. You have no idea how much it means to me. Your generosity was above and beyond anything I could have ever hoped for. And, so that I can give something back to you, I can’t recommend it strongly enough… find a race near you. Get out there and live this amazing experience. The power of it will change your life.
When I first shared this piece on my old blog, “The Electric Shaver”, that race meant so much to me on so many levels. That day was certainly about a personal accomplishment, but the power in those moments transcended what I had achieved. In a few days it will be 10 years since Mom finished her race with breast cancer and a few weeks later it’ll be six since I ran my first actual race. Going back to this post reminded me of where I was back then.
About how the power of her memory inspired me.
About how I was motivated and fueled by her impact on my life.
About how it was less about time… and more about a moment.
Your best races in life are ahead of you. Keep running.