To Relish The Challenge:
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." -John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy may not have been talking about running, but this statement could easily be applied to what we runners do in training. We choose to tackle the challenge of a difficult run or a long race not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because in doing something that is challenging, we discover the best in ourselves.
Running legend Emil Zatopek would agree.
"If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." -Emil Zatopek
We do not run marathons because we hope to cross the finish line first (at least nobody I know does). We run marathons because of the full experience - the good and the bad - of training, of preparation, of the joyous miles at the beginning, the tedious miles in the middle, and the incredibly difficult miles at the end.
When I ran my last marathon, I was struck by the fact that every other person out on the course with me that day, from the elite runners who were so far ahead that I never saw them, to the people working their hardest at a walk-run strategy to finish, were experiencing a journey. Each and every one of them had my respect.
To Feel Stronger:
Pretty soon I am going to have to break down and buy this t-shirt. I don't feel like it's completely true, because Internet, sometimes I do get really catlicking tired. But I don't quit, because when I get tired, I get tough.
Or, as the great poet Eminem would say,
"'Cause sometimes you feel tired,
feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse." -Eminem
During really tough moments, I will find this song ("'Til I Collapse") on my iPod, because with Eminem rapping these words at me, I would be completely ashamed if I quit.
To Feel the Joy:
“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable.” -Roger Bannister
I may sit at my desk all day at work, but when I go out for a run, I am free. I am flying.
Madonna puts it more succinctly.
"Time goes by so slowly for those who wait. No time to hesitate. Those who run seem to have all the fun." -Madonna, "Hung Up."
And let's not overlook The Redheaded Stranger.
"On the road again. Going places that I've never been. Seeing things that I may never see again. I can't wait to get on the road again." --Willie Nelson
When I'm out running, I see the world in a way I would never see from the comforts of my couch. I explore my town on foot, seeing the change of the seasons, seeing people out working on their yards, seeing the river flow past me. Yesterday, I did a trail run, and I swear to Yoda I saw a wolf. Opening my eyes to the bigger world around me makes every difference in my outlook, and it wouldn't happen if I weren't running.
To Feel Special:
My friend Felicia told me about going to the starting line of a marathon with her dad. He surveyed the crowd and said:
"You don't see these people lined up at the Old Country Buffet."
While the rest of the world is sitting on the couch eating junk food, we are working hard, getting leaner, stronger, and tougher. We are special. We are different.
To Do Something Extraordinary:
Ever since I was a kid, these lyrics have resonated with me:
"Have you been half asleep? And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same
I've heard it too many times to ignore it
It's something that I'm s'posed to be...
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me." -Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams (Made famous, of course, by Kermit T. Frog)
I am called to do something different, something special. Every time I lace up my shoes and face the challenge, I am chasing that rainbow. I am chasing my dreams.