THE all-too-familiar monotonous beeping of the bedside alarm rouses me for my morning run, and I am quick to silence it lest I wake the missus who is caught up in what looks like a pleasant adventure of a dream. Creeping into the bathroom and careful not to make too much noise, I go through the motions of preparing myself for the road.
The motions are never of the boring sort. In my head, there’s music playing akin to the music bed in the scene from Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood (okay, so am dating myself) where the hero readies for battle, and the camera angles and accompanying soundtrack add to the drama: boot laces being tied, ammunition belt hooked on, big-ass jungle knife sheathed, bow and arrows tucked behind, and ratty strip of camo fabric tied on as headband. My version is just as dramatic: Slip into my running shoes, clip on my hydration belt, strap on my watch and heart rate monitor, pack in my gels and cellphone, slip on my visor and am ready to roll.
The imagined cinematic flair is done for a reason. Since I’m up before the bats (both animal and human) return to their caves, I have to find ways to get psyched and remind myself why I’m doing all this. Soon after my watch picks up a satellite reading and am done with some mild stretching, I take the first strides that will transport me on another magical fitness adventure (what did I say about psyching myself?); but my brain is mostly still half-asleep and just starting to pick up steam.
As my train of thought finally leaves the station, my mind drifts from one topic to another: things to do for the day, the color choice for the room we’re renovating, my next running shoe of choice, the blind item about the controversial starlet and her secret habit, the traffic in the metro, inept sports casters covering the Olympics. The list goes on. There are days when I get caught up with the flighty shift in topics, while other days find me dwelling on one particular subject that’s hard to shake off. Inevitably, sometime during my run, I arrive at the one unifying point that casts aside all the distraction and brings everything to an even calm: gratitude.
I’m a big fan of thankfulness and appreciation. Always have been.
I run with an appreciation for the many things that enable me to enjoy what life has to offer, none of which is material in nature. Good health, a fully functioning brain (acerbic and hyperactive as it may be), and a wonderful family are just a few that come to mind. The basic ability to run and cover specific distances on my own is a personal celebration of what it means to be alive, and for this I am grateful.
A couple of years ago, I came across an inspiring human interest story on video featuring a father and son called Team Hoyt (www.teamhoyt.com) that made me realize even more what the human spirit is capable of, while at the same time giving me more reason to be grateful for being born with fully functioning limbs and healthy biological systems. The feature tells of one father’s continuing journey with his quadriplegic son (struck down by cerebral palsy) as they join various endurance races across America. Team Hoyt’s great adventure actually all started when Rick (through an interactive computer) told his father that he wanted to race a 5-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Using specially designed equipment that allows father Dick Hoyt to compete in various races while either pulling or pushing son Rick along, father and son have competed in and completed over a thousand races ranging from half-marathons and marathons to duathlons and triathlons (including six Ironman distance triathlons).
Funny sidelight: While watching the Team Hoyt video with the missus (who was in tears as the story unfolded), I blurted “Hell, if that 50-something guy can pull his son on the swim leg and push him on the bike and run legs of a full-distance Ironman, surely I can finish an Ironman on my own!” An incredulous wifey suddenly stops sniffling, turns to me, and with a look only reserved for child-molesters and convicted mass murderers, exclaims, “THAT’S your takeaway from this heart-warming story of unconditional love and perseverance?! Hello…” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But back to our story…
Unlike other lower forms of animals that run basically to hunt, migrate, or avoid becoming another animal’s lunch or dinner, humans need a more profound purpose for the basic activity of running. Some people need to run for a cause to get going, while others hit the road to lose weight or to recover that six-pack from years gone by that’s turned into a party-size beer keg. There are those who run socially to find friends and possibly partners, pretty much in the way that fitness centers and fun runs have become the new singles bars.
Running is inarguably the purest sport there is, as you rely on yourself and nothing more. Strip off all the technology, from the new generation iPods and GPS-tracking watches to the latest lighter-than-tissue-paper footwear and keeps-you-cool/warm-in-whatever-temperature apparel, and you can still enjoy your run — perhaps even more.
In the end, running, the human activity that is almost as natural as, uhm, walking, should not ever be viewed as being burdensome or worse, an inconvenience. It is the body’s natural way of transporting itself from place to place. It enables us to appreciate the joy of being able to do things on our own and to continually do that for as long as our bodies can support us. Running takes us on adventures, great and small, near and far. It would be a pity to let such a gift go unopened.
Do yourself a favor: shut off that computer, lace up those running shoes, and step outside. Celebrate your run. There is much to be grateful for.
Follow Bobby Go on Twitter @startlinebob