Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pet Rock

     Years ago I ran marathons. Note – please do not view my prior athletic prowess by my current body! I would easily log over 50 miles of running every week. I was not a sprinter. My body and my spirit were made for long distance running. I think that rhythm, that heart beat and breathing are part of my writing. There are times when I write that I can feel the movement of my legs and hear the tapping of my size two and a half sneakers giving high fives to the pavement. Sometimes, sorry, it takes me longer to warm up and get into the flow. Other times, I begin immediately with the muscles loose, the thighs burning and my breath in complete harmony with my legs.
     And then, one sees the finish line. A marathon, mind you, is 26.2 miles. Not twenty six miles, it is 26.2 miles. Do not forget those two tenths of a mile. When you think you see the finish line, believe you have made it, crashed through the physical and mental walls those two tenths of a mile taunt the last drop of reserve in your tank. The goal is visual and close. The race, truly a race against yourself not others, is almost over. You have mined yet another depth of your being to draw upon, when life becomes challenging outside the race, if you can but finish those two tenths.
     Other than the physical pain and mental fatigue, a runner’s worst enemy can be a stray pebble or over sized grain of sand that finds its way into your running shoe. A runner knows their body. However slight the grain of sand may be it dislodges their balance. Even worse, the mental concentration and physical rhythm are derailed. Will it become a blister? Will I be able to finish the race? Should I stop now and remove shoe and sock hoping to ward off a DNF (did not finish) or an injury that will side line me for weeks? What…no running? When I was running, I had friends who would throw my running shoes at me and tell me to go run, knowing that I always returned whole and healed. What if I could not run because of a blister?
     During the obsessive self talk and doubt, trying to find your stride once again, you see them. Neighbors from the houses lining the streets are sitting out in their lawn chairs cheering you on and clapping. Some have set up picnic tables with water cups to quench your thirst and douse over your head. They hold their offerings out to you so you don’t break stride having to stop and pick up the needed gifts. No, they stand and wait for you and as you approach their arms stretch out and they ask only to serve. I still remember my first marathon when I approached the first such gathering. I stopped dead in my tracks – almost creating a massive pile up, mind you. If I were a better writer perhaps I could help you see what I saw and what I felt, but alas, I can only say it was stunningly overwhelming. I tucked that cup behind my paper number pinned to my shirt and kept it for years. I do not remember that first marathon’s miles, they clipped away unnoticed as I pondered the tiny paper cup tucked against my body.
     I miss running. And if you have read between the lines above you know the depth of that statement. There are days when I find a pebble or over sized grain of sand has covertly found its way into life and my walk becomes a touch unbalanced. I will not say I handle this well, I don’t. But sometimes when something precious has gone, if you stop running, you might just notice the outstretched hand holding a tiny paper cup of water. They do not try to break your stride. They offer their cheers, support and are simply there because they want to celebrate your effort, your desire, your passion and your life in that moment. No, I don’t run anymore. I think, perchance, life is teaching me to walk, pause, sit and enjoy the company of the outstretched arms. To say thank you, ask their name and share my name not my runner’s number. And if that be the lesson of the pebble, then well done my pet rock!