Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So What's the Point?

I've been a "serious runner" since somewhere around 1996. I pick that year since I ran my first marathon in 1997. I was on active duty in the Navy and ironically, I was on limited duty due to passing out on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night. Many tests later and I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope. In a nutshell, I have a super low resting heart rate and when a few conditions are present (dehydration, a pointed pain, or sickness), I can pass out. On that ship, I was found on the floor of the bathroom and after a day in the carrier's ICU, was flown via helicopter to Portsmouth Naval Hospital. Since then, I've hit countertops in bathrooms (woke up under that countertop...bleeding), gone through shower doors in the middle of the night (landed on my neck and spent the night in the ER) and thrown up on the table while donating plasma...twice. In recent years, I had a total workup by a local cardiologist who gave me the Rolls-Royce of tests...proving...wait for it...I'm extremely healthy. "If you want a pacemaker, I'll get you one," is what he said. "If you want meds, I'll prescribe them," he also said. My reply: "Can I just stay hydrated and avoid the situations that provide a ripe opportunity to pass out?" "You can do that, too," he said. Sold.

Well, 26 marathons and 19 ultra-marathons later, meds-free and pacemaker-free, I'm good and about to hit the "Year of the 40" next month. Since 1997, a whole heck of a lot of life has happened. The reasons for running have completely changed, kids have been born, lots of career changes, an all-expense-paid trip to Afghanistan happened, and life has been "reset" more than once. Today, I run because I can. I rarely wear a watch, don't care about racing and enter few races. I lace up and head out to look inside myself, enjoy God's creation, and experience life uninhibited by all of the distractions of life. Running is my normalizer in life.

Running along with social media has also thrust me into the local running community that has grown incredibly in recent years. I once started the Western Reserve Trail Running newsletter with a few hundred subscribers. It grew to 3000+. Today, WRTR ceases to exist and there are more trail events than you can possibly attend. Gone are the days of knowing everyone at the starting line and leading group runs on the trails of the national park. As I deleted each of the 700+ members of the WRTR group on Facebook a few days ago, I was certainly sad about it. I miss writing that newsletter and joining all of the races under an umbrella that sought nothing more than to create community and communicate to the masses what's going on, when, and to inspire via interviews with local runners. You'd think with deleting such a group/organization, it would be replaced and made better. You'd be wrong. There are other organizations out there that are pulling in races but the reasons are different and the "community" is no longer being pulled together centrally. I am looking to find my place here on the outside looking in and not sure what that looks like. I still feel I have much to give and contribute but via e-mails, Facebook messages, and other "things" that have happened, I'd be lying if I felt welcome in many of the circles I once felt at home.

So I run. I don't do it for anyone else but myself. I am much more strict on myself as to what races I'll consider and support. I want to know who is directing it and where the funds go. It matters. I can run for free but if I'm going to shell out money to run, I want it to be worth it and serve a higher purpose. That's one reason I recently took my Brooks sponsorship for 2013 and fully devoted it to supporting the local "On My Own Two Feet Marathon and Half Marathon." It's directed by a fellow ultra-runner who cares about giving back instead of just being a part of the herd and the funds go directly to battered womens' shelters to support them...locally. This year, three certificates will be awarded that provide a free pair of Brooks or a Brooks jacket, everyone's goodie bags will be Brooks Run Happy recycled bags, and the finish line will be lined with Run Happy pennants all the way in.

Mentally, I've felt a little like dropping out more ways than one. The feeling is too familiar as I've felt it often during those long races or training runs. I just read an article called "The Dropout" in the April 2013 edition of Running Times. It's found on page 18 and was written by Pete Magill who holds five American age-group records and is the oldest American to break 15min for 5K, having run 14:45 a few months before his 50th birthday. I will recall the following quote often as I run my 20th ultra-marathon this Saturday:

"Here's the thing: When we quit, we take the loneliness, self-doubt and suffering we couldn't overcome in the race and make it our permanent training partner. Finishing gives us hope. It fosters belief that more training will yield a reward, that there will be a better finish line in the future - and that we'll have the fortitude to cross it."

 Run Happy, friends.

1 comment:

melissa said...

Nick, I am with ya on the needing to build a new running community that focuses on health, fun and donating time and money into various causes, (veterans, survivors of domestic violence and rape, child abuse, homelessness, etc). Thank you so much for supporting the marathon.