"Send some rain, would you send some rain? 'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade Would you send a cloud, thunder long and loud? Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down Surely you can see that we are thirsty and afraid But maybe not, not today Maybe you'll provide in other ways And if that's the case . . .
We'll give thanks to you With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for you
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If you never send us rain
Oh, the differences that often are between
What we want and what we really need"
- from Gratitude by Nichole Nordeman
Lately I've been feeling like a horrible person. I've been trying to figure out where all of these feelings are coming from. What I know is that something has been missing. Something has been missing from my writing and something has been missing from my running for some time now. More importantly something has been missing from my life and all of my interpersonal relationships.
I think I may have figured it out, but it has been a slow, painful realization. What I've been missing is myself. More specifically, I've been missing the "attitude of gratitude" that I adopted over the years. That attitude of being thankful for all that I have, all that I am, and all that I am able to do for myself and others is what has helped to make me who I am. It is at the core of my being and somewhere along the line, I lost it. Well, maybe not lost it completely, but I certainly misplaced it.
When I started on this journey I was just happy that I was able to run. Once I realized that I was able to run and could use my running to help others, I started figuring out exactly how I was going to do that. Whether it was using my sales/marketing background and organizational skills to help produce Lex's Run with my wife Lex in order to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, or using my physical talents and my heart to raise money for Children's Hospital by running the Boston Marathon, running had a purpose in my life greater than serving myself.
Somewhere along the line I lost sight of that.
I know it was there when my friend James (Brenya's Father) said he wanted me to run Boston for Brenya again. He was supposed to run for Children's Hospital this year but was halted due some health issues of his own and was unable to continue his training. I didn't even hesitate. Even though Lex and I had just welcomed our second beautiful daughter into this World, and I knew that training with a new baby in the house was going to present distinct challenges to both me and my family. Even though I knew how difficult it was going to be in these tough economic times to raise the $3500 again. Even though there were so many variables that could upset the apple cart and become huge obstacles to my success this year, I signed-up. I knew full well what I was getting myself into and I did it anyway. Because that is who I am.
Then, as they say, something happened on the way to Hopkinton. There was the whole Boston Marathon registration debacle where many people who had earned their way in and truly deserved the opportunity to run Boston got shut out. The backlash was almost instantaneous against charity runner's of all people. A small group of runner's on twitter, facebook and their own blogs started to wage an ideological war against people that they felt didn't belong in a race like the Boston Marathon. It is a race after all and if you couldn't qualify then you shouldn't be there. I wrote a post about it, so I don't want to rehash it all here. But it seemed that suddenly some of my "friends" on twitter, Facebook, dailymile and elsewhere had an axe to grind with me.
Of course, if you know me, you know I can be outspoken. So, I had a lot to say and was involved in a few heated back-and-forth arguments with people who seemed to consider themselves above everyone else in the running community because they were able to run a BQ. This discourse devolved into runner's that I respected and admired actually trying to define what an "actual" runner is, and feeling like they had the right to differentiate between runner's and jogger's for instance, or defining running and racing differently. It all became very pernicious and demeaning, and as a result I ended several on-line friendships and even "blocked" certain people from my facebook page and twitter feed. I even went so far as to make my twitter stream "private" after all of this. It deeply saddened me. But is also motivated me.
I fear it motivated me in the wrong way. I got frustrated. I got angry and gave in to it. I suddenly had a renewed focus. I felt like a new person. I set new goals. I decided to work on my speed in the Fall before starting my Boston Training in earnest in December. I began to perform in ways I hadn't dreamed of since high school. I trained harder and faster. I ran faster. I set PR after PR. I brought my 5k PR down from 25 minutes, to 20. Even after I started my endurance phase, I set a 23 minute PR in Derry, NH at the Boston Prep 16-Miler. I was psyched. I was ready. Ready to run my BQ and prove to all those people whom I no longer even had anything to do with that I could do it! I know. Insane, right?
In retrospect, I wasn't focused at all. I was obsessed. even driven by my anger. The crazy part is that it was anger over perceived slights by (mostly) total strangers. Slights against not only myself, but slights against the running community. Slights against people who inspire me through their running or just living every day, even though they run 12, 13, or even 15 minute miles. People who run to overcome. People who run despite being told they'd never walk. People who run through excruciating pain. The same people who don't give a second thought to giving kind supportive words to others. People who do it all with a smile.
I realize now that I internalized all of this anger, frustration and pain and used it. I used it to push myself throughout the most difficult training cycle I can imagine. Through the longest, darkest, harshest Winter I can recall. Through blizzards and sub-zero runs. Through 18-miler's on the treadmill. Through illness and injury. Through every conceivable challenge and obstacle placed in my way. I was driven to the point of madness. I neglected friendships. Relationships that should have been given extra care and nurturing, were instead chalked-up as "high-maintenance" and disregarded entirely. People I should have been leaning on, I instead pushed away. I ignored so many other things in my life that should have taken priority. I adopted a "run more, everything else will take care of itself" mantra.
It became like an addiction. And like all addictions, it didn't end well.
I've spent the last couple of weeks in a funk. In withdrawal. Miserable. Depressed. Disappointed. Hurt. Disgusted. I realize now the mistakes that I made. I alienated people. I disregarded others. I only hope it's not to late to repair certain relationships. I'm hurting. I'm hurting because I've been hurting when I should be elated. I should have been celebrating! For Pete's sake! I raised almost $5000 again for Children's Hospital Boston. I kept Brenya's memory alive. I saw James and his wife Shana holding a sign that said that I was their "hero." I was Brenya's hero... I high-fived a whole group of "Miles for Miracles" Patient Partner's and their family's at Mile 24 and saw the hope and excitement in their eyes. I suffered. I crossed that finish line. And that's all that should matter. I had a great day. The only thing I regret is getting so down on myself that I couldn't enjoy it. Idiot.
I've said this all before, but, running is transformative. Running is healing an growing. Running makes me want to be a better person, a better husband and a better father. I need to remember that as I move on to my next phase, my next challenge. One in which I am sure I will find myself again. Spring and Summer will be spent on the trails and in the mountains. Reconnecting with that which gives me life. When I run on the trails it's so much more than running. It is primal. It is instinctual. Most of all it is fun. I run with wild abandon. I run with meditative peace. I run as if I'm a child again. I run happy.
I will be running a whole host of trail and mountain races in preparation for running the Vermont 50 on September 25. We'll see what life has in store for me after that. No time goals necessarily. Just running. I'm going to ditch the Heart Rate Monitor and the Foot Pod for now. I'm also going to set the Garmin so that I can only see Total Time and Total Distance. I'm just going to run and having a great time doing it.
My first running "adventure" will be this Saturday, May 7. The 21.5 mile version of the Wapack and Back Trail Race with my friend Jeremy (@silentproject on twitter). They say it "runs like a road 50k." I have a feeling it is going to be an excellent adventure! I'm co-opting a line from my friend Logan(@the_UnaRunner)'s blog post about, well, actually a picture of a t-shirt someone bought for him before, the Lumberjack 100 that he posted on his blog, as my theme for the foreseeable future... "DO EPIC SHIT!" My soul is thirsty...