Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Run For Your LIFE!

Growing up, there was a lot of imaginative play with my older sister and our best friends.  Not to get all, "back in my day, sonny" on you, but we didn't play video games.  We didn't have cable, and only watched about an hour of television each week.  We read a lot of books.  We wrote a lot, and self-published our stories in magazines and newspapers which we would then distribute to our parents and their friends.  Most of the time, though, we played outside.  I think I heard the phrase "run for your life" for the first time on Scooby-Doo.  It was also probably used on Gilligan's Island and on The Brady Bunch, although not quite as often.  Quick digression-
Anyway, let's get back to the running for our lives thing.  'Run for your life!' is a really fun thing to shout, as is 'You'll never catch me!' and 'You're our only hope!'.  Another quick digression- wouldn't it be cool to really be someone's only hope?  I mean, to possess either the knowledge, strength, or superiority to be the only hope has to feel pretty awesome.  Okay, back again.  I distinctly remember that whether we were playing detectives or stranded islanders or football or Cookie Jar (in which one of us [me, except when I protested really loudly] played the mom of several demanding, whiny children who did nothing but crawl around and ask for cookies- not my favorite game, but definitely the best preparation for real life) or archaeologists or hide-n-seek or Carson Kids (in which we were orphaned, crime fighting, Macguyver-esque children except when we had to get away from our mean foster parents, when we would break all the rules) or A-Team, someone would inevitably shout, "Run for your life!" and we would all take off as fast as our scrawny legs would carry us.  We would run down the sidewalk, as far as we were allowed.  We would run circles around the house.  We would run until my friend's younger brother, who was always the Bad Guy, complained to our moms that we weren't letting him catch us, or until someone got stung by a wasp (okay, that only happened once, but it sticks out in my memory like nothing else).  Running was the most fun part of all our games.  Running was the constant.  Running was survival.
Not pictured: anyone I know.  I realized I was going to have to google 'kid running images' when I looked through my oldest photo album and found pictures of kids in sinks, wearing tutus, playing t-ball, jumping on trampolines, and baking bread, but nobody running, ever.  We must have been too fast for those '80's cameras.

Did you know I'm training to run my first marathon?  (If not, this is probably your first visit to my blog, so let me welcome you!)  I've been thinking a lot lately about why I'm doing this.  See, back when I ran my first half-marathon, there was someone holding a sign that read, "Remember your why."  I had trouble coming up with anyone's why, much less my own, at mile 12 of the 13.1 mile race.  Because of my new brain-training initiative, I decided I should explore my reasons for deciding to run a marathon so's not to be caught off guard, mentally, by the motivational signs on the course.  After a couple of days of trying to come up with good reasons to neglect my family for hours each week while completing training runs, to put almost every inch of my body at risk of injury, to spend a whole bunch of money, to be impressed almost daily by how much sweat it is possible to produce, I was feeling a little stuck and discouraged.  I decided to check out other people's reasons, hoping maybe I could find something inspirational and deep to tell people when they asked why I was running a marathon.  Thank you, google, for always being there for me!

What I found when I typed 'why do people run marathons' was not very encouraging, nor was it very surprising.  There was one article claiming that many of us are not genetically suited for long-distance running, and that no amount of training will make those genetically lacking folks improve.

Lucky for me, I seem to have good genes.  Thanks, Dad!
I also found a blogger who says that only white people like to run marathons, this guy who says it's the challenge which excites our sense of adventure, and a really interesting (maybe only to me) article in which the decisions we make which cause us pain vs. pleasure are explored.  You really should read the whole article, but I'll sum up the parts I found most fascinating:
  • Choosing to run a marathon is irrational.  Choosing to have more than one child is also irrational.
  • We humans are not oh-so-rational, really.  Nor are we very good at remembering just how painful some experiences are.
  • Apparently, it was the Hindus who inspired Westley's words in The Princess Bride, "Life is pain, highness.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling something."
  • Life can be measured as a sum of moments, and if the pleasurable moments outnumber the painful moments, we can claim to have lived a good life.  Or...
  • Life can't be measured as a sum of moments, and is "good" if we are able to appreciate the painful and pleasurable both as experiences which make us whole.
So, here's what I've concluded.  I'm going to run a marathon because I want to.  I stressed the word 'want' in that sentence to make it look closer to the word 'need', which might be more accurate.  I need to challenge myself, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I need to know that I can do it.  I mean, I know I can do it.  But saying that at this point, when I haven't actually done it, is not much different from my saying that I know I can pitch a perfect game in Major League Baseball.

It's easy to say you can turn a pilgrim...
...into a zombie, but have you actually done it?
My life is a happy one, no matter how I choose to calculate happiness.  Maybe that's why I'm ready, now, to physically torment myself and put myself through 26.2 miles of pain.  Maybe Maslow had it right, and running a marathon is how I self-actualize.

Run for your VITALITY!  Hmm.  Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but for me, it seems accurate.  No matter what is going on in my life, running is the constant.  No matter how hot and miserable I feel, physically, and how drained, mentally, running is still fun.  Improving my pace, setting new personal records, testing my limits and surpassing what I ever thought was possible, well, keeps me feeling alive.  Running is survival.

My advice for you was rather subliminal in this post, so I'll add a tip here just in case you stopped by looking for it.  I think you should get caught in some quicksand.  It probably makes more sense for me to be speaking metaphorically, here, like, "seek out some danger and don't be afraid" or whatever, but I mean it literally.  I would love it if someone would call me from quicksand.  I would totally know how to get you out, too.  Just give me 4 other people and a dog, and we'll be all set.

Have you ever been the only hope?  I will also accept stories about being "the only one I can trust" or "the last chance."  

Has anyone ever even seen quicksand?  Really?


  1. No, no, & no;-) Congrats on your decision to run the Big M! I think it'll be less painful than you think. I can't wait to run my next full...although mentally right now I feel like I can run further than my physical body can. My why has a lot of the same components as yours.

  2. Quicksand! what was the deal with that? I grew up with many quicksand concerns. Was there a Disney movie with quicksand in it or something?

  3. I, too, can remember having concerns about quicksand. I have no idea where they came from.
    I have now avoided moving on in my day by reading two wikipedia articles about quicksand (wet and dry.)