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My training plan for June’s 100-miler called for a 24 mile run yesterday.  As a result of the week’s events here in Boston, my training had been a mess, so I was determined to get my long run in.  Jess was kind enough to take the kids out for the day and leave me to my running.

My goal was to run slowly, somewhere in the 10:00 per mile range, to begin the physical, and more importantly psychological adjustment to running at a slower pace than I am used to.  It’s been a tough week here in Boston.  Last Monday’s bombings went right to my heart.  That, followed by the shootout late Thursday night where one brave officer was killed, the lock down of the Metro-West area on Friday and the eventual capture of Suspect #2 Friday night, has made the week a bit of a roller coaster to be sure.  Although I was able to keep #AutismStreaks going, my mileage was minimal.

When my feet finally  hit the pavement yesterday, I knew almost immediately my plans for the run were changing.  Earlier in the day the London Marathon was run, thankfully without incident.  For whatever reason, maybe it was that the Boston Marathon was still fresh in my memory, I just knew that I too would have to run a marathon – and so I did.  I worked my way to the Boston Marathon course and was pleased to find other runners who had the same idea.  Throughout my 22 miles on the course, I chatted with several runners, all of whom, out of some mystical drive had decided that on this day running 26.2 miles was important.  Some may have been running to show support, others may have been running to show defiance.

Me?  I was running for the spectators, the organizers, the security, the runners. I was running for the heroes, for the doctors, the police officers, the citizens who ran toward danger instead of away from it.

I was running for running.

There was something in the air, because every runner I passed made eye contact and nodded – an acknowledgment of unity, of brother and sisterhood.

At about 18 miles into my run, I passed a car at a stop light.  The windows were closed, but I could see the driver’s Boston 2013 jacket.  I shouted something, and pointed at him and continued on.  Moments later when he passed me, he rolled down his window, beeped and gave me a raised fist of defiance.  I did the same and then wept over the next half mile.

***

What was I looking for out there yesterday?
What did I find?

Early in my run I passed a Church that was just letting out of service.  I have not had a relationship with the Guy Upstairs in quite a while, and although I am currently a non-believer, I think I understand why people have religion.  The parishioners were smiling, speaking happily with each other.  Whatever their pastor had spoken about had obviously done some good.  As I watched them smile and chat, I realized that I too, in my own way, was attending church.  I found myself smiling, despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that I was pushing my body.

There is a certain peace one finds on the pavement (or trail as the case may be).  Whether running with friends or running alone, the very act of running, to me, is an act of affirmation; affirmation that I am alive, that I can achieve, that I can overcome.  It doesn’t always make me feel 100% good about whatever predicament I may find myself in, but I don’t think any religion or philosophy can do that.

What did I find out there yesterday?

I found a certain amount of peace.

I found the desire to just be.

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After 26.2 miles – 3:50:56

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I sometimes wonder, what the Hell did I do?  What did I do to deserve this?

***

Oh, Luau…the Lord moves in mysterious ways.  We cannot know what his plan is.  We can only have faith that he has us on the right path and that he will only put challenges in front of you that he knows you can overcome.

Yeah?  Tell that to the guy who disappeared down a sinkhole last week.

***

Last night Jess, Brooke and I went to go see Katie in a school production of a musical.  Katie had been fighting a bad cold all week, but was determined to perform.  Little Brooke was even saying that she was excited to see the show.  Everything was going great – Brooke was singing along, watching, keeping an eye out for Katie – yes, everything was going along just fine…that is, until it wasn’t anymore.

Just before intermission Brooke turned to me and said, this show is too long. 

I hushed her and said that intermission would be soon.  She then said she needed the restroom.

Fine, I thought, no problem.  We slipped out of the auditorium and were back in our seats in minutes.  When intermission arrived, I went to get a snack.  I was gone maybe 10 minutes at most.  When I returned Brooke was in full meltdown mode.  She was done, cooked, finished.  Jess walked her outside to try to calm her down but to no avail.  About 5 minutes later she came in alone.  A friend was watching Brooke in the lobby.

Can you take her home, she asked.

I sighed.  I wasn’t going to get to see the second half of the show.

I wondered, what the Hel did I do?  What did I do to deserve this?  To be clear, this question wasn’t directed at Jess.  There was no way I was going to let her miss the closing act of her baby.  Those two have a bond that is beyond special, beyond your typical mother-daughter relationship.  No, my question was for the Big Guy Upstairs.

What did I do?

WHAT HELL DID I DO, “LORD”???

I took little Brooke by the hand and trudged out of the school, shoulders slumped, on the edge of tears.  Upon arriving home, Brooke wanted to draw.  I told her one picture and then it was time for bed.  I slumped to the floor feeling sorry for myself.

I again wondered to myself, what did I do to deserve this? But then it struck me.  Maybe I did do something to deserve this; maybe at some point in my life I treated someone poorly or used terms that were inappropriate – who knows?  It didn’t matter.

My question morphed.  My thinking changed. My anger at the Petty Guy Upstairs grew.

The real question I should have been asking is What the Hell did Katie do to deserve this?  Why does she have to suffer collateral damage?

The answer?

Nothing.

She didn’t do anything to deserve this.  This whole “sins of the father” crap is just that…crap!  Petty, Vindictive Crap!

7 miles at 11 o'clock at night while blasting Zepplin II helped my mood a little...but not much.

7 miles at 11 o’clock at night while blasting Zepplin II helped my mood a little…but not much.

 

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Kool-Aid

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Running, and by extension physical activity, is a gift.

As with all great gifts, it is one worth sharing.

Often people don’t want it. They look at those of us who are regularly active and think that it is easy for us to run, that it is easy for us to exercise. To a degree, that is true. Those of us who call ourselves runners (or swimmers or cyclists) wake up with the urge to run, or swim or bike – maybe not as soon as we get up (I’m still trying out this pre-dawn thing), but eventually, at some point during the day, we are driven to get physical.

It’s not like that for everyone, particularly for those that haven’t imbibed in our endorphin-laced kool-aid. Our non-running friends don’t know that there was a time when the desire and drive simply weren’t there for us, but we forced ourselves to push on. Once through that wall, once through that two to three to ten weeks of faithfully getting it done, it all changed. For some of us it was a gradual awakening, for others it was a moment of enlightenment.

If it sounds mildly religious, don’t be surprised. There is definitely a cult-like mentality to dedicated runners, and the endorphin-high one gets from running is very similar to that of a religious experience or an encounter with a huge amount of chocolate. Some might call it an addiction, others might call it a religion. I like to think of it as therapy. But any way you slice it, for the greater majority of us, it is peace. Running is the place where the stresses of the day, month, year, can melt away for a brief moment in time. It is a place where we can work out the strategies of how to deal with our daily issues. Much like a drug, religion or therapy, running can ease the pain in our lives and help keep our personal demons at bay.

Just like drugs, religion or therapy however, running is not for everyone. As a running acolyte, that is something that is hard for me to remember. Just like there is room in this world for religious believers and non-believers, there too, is room for runners and non-runners alike.

Still, like many religious zealots, I have difficulty understanding how one could not enjoy the benefits running. I wish I could bottle up the kool-aid and give it out for the Holidays, just so people could have a taste of that joy that running (or any exercise that produces a lot of sweat) can bring.

I do believe that unlike religion and drug addiction, running doesn’t do harm to others in its name. It’s not like runners are about to start a runner’s war, right?

People will come to it when they’re ready I suppose. I didn’t start running regularly until I was almost 40. I wish I had done it when I was 30 or 20 for that matter, but honestly, I just wasn’t ready.

Who wants Kool-Aid?

Have you always been a runner (or whatever your sport of choice is) or did it come to you later in life?

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Why do you run?

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