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Drive

If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone.

-Jack Shephard


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What am I running from?

What am I running to?

What drives me?

Is it as simple as that?

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation about the relationship between self-image and food. The gist of that particular conversation was that some people use food to fill a void or ease a pain in their lives.  The void or pain “drives” them to food.

Not a revelation, I know.

But for some people, they need to hear it out loud or from an “expert” to internalize it and then use that information in a positive way.

That conversation got me thinking about my relationship with running.  Without a doubt there are some who have substituted running for food in the above mentioned relationship.  I don’t think that it’s a lot of people, but it’s a reality.   I had to ask myself, what about MY relationship with running?

Is there a void? And am I trying to fill it with miles upon endless miles? Is there a buried pain that I am not aware of (or choose not to be aware of) on the surface?

I consider myself a pretty shallow guy. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I mean that for the most part, when it comes to me, what you see is what you get. There are a few deep undercurrents, but I am generally an open book and am pretty easy to read. At least that’s what I believe.

So what drives me? Why do I do this? Why get up early or go to bed late to run.

A long time ago I had a huge competitive streak. I worked hard to be first in everything I did, whether it was in academics, on the track, or in the ring. I wasn’t always the best, and sometimes I had my ass handed to me with a side of humble pie, but I always came at it hard.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my edge…completely. So when I discovered running 18 months ago, and found that one could be competitive no matter the talent level, my fire was somewhat renewed.

I love running because, despite the fact that 99% of us will never win a race outright, we can feed our competitive fire with the runners that are around us. Whether you’re fighting for 10th, 100th or 1000th place, you can still fight, push, give 100% and feel good about how you did. Disappointing finishes can be used to fuel the fire and drive you.  A fantastic finish can feed your desire even more.  In the end you are truly only racing against one person – yourself.

That is what has driven me in my runs for the last 18 months.  Trying to PR with every race, trying to push myself harder and faster than I did before.

But this past week brought me a completely different kind of fuel.  One that can be just as powerful, if not more so, than the re-kindled internal flame that has been driving me.  This summer I am running for my girls.  One of my two daughters is on the autism spectrum, the other is typically developing, but both are greatly affected by the effects of autism.  Though my little one is the one who struggles daily with autism, my older one has had to learn how to accommodate a little sister who can act in ways that don’t always make sense, are sometimes irrational, and quite frankly, from my older one’s perspective, occasionally embarrassing.

Though her struggle is nothing like that of my little Brooke’s, Katie’s struggles are nonetheless real and truly burdensome.  Katie, in a lot of ways, has had to grow up more rapidly than her peers.  She tries to find a balance between being a typical 9-year-old girl and being the big sister of a 7-year-old with autism.  I have to remind her on a regular basis that she does not need to “mother” her sister.

But there is a third girl in my family who has been deeply affected by autism as well – the Wife.  She has had to take a different path than I am sure she imagined when we first said, “I do” (coincidentally, this past Sunday was our 11th anniversary).  Having carried both our girls for 9 months,  she has felt every bit of pain and frustration she sees in both Brooke and Katie in ways that cut deep and leave scars. She has found her outlets through her blog and has become a uniter of sorts in the local community, helping create a very popular inclusion committee at the girls’ elementary school.  But she too, along with Brooke and Katie, struggles with the rippling effects of autism on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

When I first got word from Autism Speaks that I had been accepted to be part of their team for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, I focused almost completely on my little Brooke.  I sent out emails and updates on Twitter, Dailymile and Facebook asking people to help me help my little girl Brooke, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this run, these efforts by Autism Speaks, my reason for asking you for donations and/or spreading the word, were less about just Brooke and more about the big picture – the families and circle of friends that are affected by weight of autism.

Autism can be isolating, not just for the person affected by it, but for the entire family.  From a personal perspective, I can tell you that autism, although introducing us to a whole new world of friends (Drama, Jersey, Judith, Pixie, Jeneil?  We love you!), it has also kept or pushed us to the periphery with other groups.  I don’t blame those people who have fallen off our social radar.  Part of it has been our own doing.  Some people just don’t get it or are unable to convey and instill their own compassion into their children and because of that we have withdrawn.  But sometimes, it is the other families that pull away, because it is the parents who can’t wrap their brains around what it is we go through on a daily basis.  Again, I don’t blame them.  It’s human nature to pull away from something we can’t understand.  Hopefully awareness can change some of that.

And so I run this summer.  I run for Autism Speaks.  I run to raise autism awareness.  I run to make the world a friendlier place for my Brooke.  I run to make the world less of a burden for my Katie.  I run to help the wife see a world where the sun is in fact shining, there are fewer tears, and the occasional torrential rain storm can be a good thing because it can lead to rapid  growth.  I run to help others, whether they are affected by autism or not, to reach across their differences and shake hands in friendship.  In the end, whether it is autism, some other disorder, religion, politics or whatever it is that divides us,  if we can learn to appreciate and understand our differences, we can learn to live and thrive together.

Yes, I have found a new fuel to drive me this summer – it starts with my three girls, Brooke, Katie and the Wife.

Brooke, the Wife & Katie

I hope you will join me in my fight.

Click —>HERE<— to link to my Autism Speaks donor page OR THERE—> Bookmark and Share to help me spread the word.

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