In 2010, I trained for the Chicago Marathon, and it remains one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, physically and mentally. For months I was exhausted, at times frustrated; I was nervous, excited, worried, and exhilarated.
Midway through my training program, I was feeling especially tired and discouraged, and I turned to a group of running friends for support. Well, no—I turned to them for a way out. Thankfully, I didn’t get it. What I got was some wisdom that I only recently have been able to understand.
In full-on whiny mode, I wrote in an e-mail that I didn’t even know why I was doing this anymore. My friend Amie started her response simply enough: “Because you can.” She told me to think of all the people who wanted to run and couldn’t, and there I was, fully capable of doing so.
At the time, my internal response was something like, “Yeah, right. Who’s dumb enough to want to run?”
But now I get it.
I’ve gotten it since April 15, when terrorists attacked the Boston Marathon. I’ve gotten it since I saw a photo of Jeff Bauman in a wheelchair, having lost both legs. And it has inspired me to run again.
I doubt I’ll train for a marathon, but I decided to run the Flying Pig 10k last weekend, my first real distance in a year. Two weeks before the race, I didn’t know if I could even manage 6.2 miles, but I made a choice: “Not being able to” was not an option. If I started to feel wimpy, all I had to do was repeat a simple mantra: Jeff Bauman, Jeff Bauman, Jeff Bauman.
On race day, I surprised myself with how well I held up over the course. As I turned the corner for the home stretch, the final .3 miles, I ran as hard as I could. Bigger kick, longer strides. When I felt like I might make myself sick, I kept running as hard as I could. Quitting—or even slowing down—just wasn’t allowed.
I wish I could tell Jeff Bauman that he has inspired me, and undoubtedly countless others. And I wish I could tell him he will overcome the huge challenge in front of him, and he again will walk or run or do whatever his heart desires. I’m certain that he will.
Mostly, I wish it hadn’t taken a tragedy for me to grasp the depth of Amie’s statement three years ago. But I get it now, and I’m going to try to be a more grateful, appreciative human being because of that.