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The other day I ran 16.7 miles. Right, so what?

It’s not the 16.7 miles that has me writing this post. It is what the run meant, to me anyway.

I have a friend Mike. I have known him since our college days. I owe him. He took me in after I graduated from college.  At the time I had no idea what I was doing with myself.  He was attending his sophomore summer and had a room in our fraternity all to himself.  Or so he thought.   When I arrived at his door a few weeks into the term, he very happily put me up on his couch for the rest of the summer.   I stayed, rent free, for nearly two months. He never complained – not once.  Over that summer, Mike became one of my dearest friends.

Years later, unbeknownst to me, Mike came dangerously close to losing a battle with a liver condition.  With the help of a team of doctors here in Boston, he fought back, got healthy and is now looking to pay it forward by running with the American Liver Foundation’s Run For Research Team in this year’s Boston Marathon.  This will be his first marathon.

What does this have to do with me?  What does this have to with 16.7 miles?

The Boston Marathon has been a dream of mine for a little over a year now.  The idea of running the same race the Kelly’s, Katherine Switzer, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit, and Alberto Salazar all ran is something that I find absolutely exhilarating, but as many of you know, one cannot just sign up for Boston.  One must either run for a charity team like my good friend Mike or qualify for the race by running another marathon within a certain amount of time.  I have nothing against charities.  In fact, as a family we have worked very hard to raise funds for both big (Autism Speaks, St. Jude’s) and little (the Autism Alliance of Metrowest, Playground funds, Pre-School Programs) organizations.  But very early on, I decided that I wanted to run Boston because I had qualified.  It will require my running a 3:20:59 or better marathon.  I am not there yet, but I hope to within the next year or two.  I digress.

Mike has chosen a different, and in some ways more admirable and selfless path.  His desire to run Boston has put him in a position to help those who helped him.

Mike signed up to run and has been fairly successful in raising funds for his team.  However, he was having some difficulty with the long runs.  When he first started his training, he very happily drove down to where the team was meeting every Saturday with the hopes of spending the next 2 hours or so chatting with other runners.  What he found though is that many of them would plug-in their ear buds and zone out for the bulk of the run.  I can relate to that.  I do it quite frequently when I am running my long runs…alone.  Having limited experience at running for long distances, Mike feared that he would struggle to stay focused on his own.  He doesn’t run with music so I can totally understand why he would be think that.

So when he emailed me a week or so ago and asked if I wanted to join him for a scheduled 14.5 miler, I said I was game.  I hadn’t run more than 13.1 since November, but “what the heck”, it would be nice to get a truly long run in.  We had a great time chatting for two and a half hours.  We even went an extra couple of miles, finishing the day at 16.7.  It was the most pleasant long run I have had to date.  No hurries, just running with a friend, chatting pretty much non-stop for the entire run.

At the end of the run (it was both the longest time – 2:35:00 – and distance he had ever covered) he looked at me and thanked me, saying that he didn’t think he would have made it to the end without the company.  I frowned.  It may have been more of a struggle had he been on his own, but I told him he would have finished just fine.  He thanked me nonetheless.

My point is this: we may not have the time nor the inclination to dedicate ourselves full-time towards a particular charity or what have you, but during these unsure times, the very least we can do is help those who are helping others.  Did I accomplish a huge feat in running those 16.7 miles?  Did I “make the difference” in how Mike has raised money for the liver team? No, absolutely not.  My contribution to his run was three hours out of my weekend.

A drop in the bucket.

But drop by drop, the rain fills the bucket.

You can find Mike here.

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