I went running last night in the rain on the local high school track. Our new high school is currently under construction but the new track was installed months ago. I ran 50 miles on the previous track, which was asphalt and in disrepair, as a fundraiser for the 2002 Man of the Year event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I also ran 62 miles on this track several years ago when I came up short in an attempt at 100 miles in 24 hours.
But last night was special for several reasons. The first step I took on the new track was like landing on a marshmallow. I’ve always enjoyed running in the rain and I was alone…allowing me to become completely lost in my thoughts. Being able to return to consistent running has been a complete blessing. Running for an hour for the first time in an extremely long time was wonderful.
I thought about how blessed I have been because I am a runner. I’ve discovered so many things about myself through my running. When I joined the military 35 years ago and was forced to run, I discovered that I enjoyed running and could run effortlessly for extremely long distances. Running has changed my view of the world…it has changed my view of myself.
Running has allowed me to fulfill a commitment that I made to my mother back in 1996 when I spoke with her for the very last time in the Mayo Clinic. Leukemia took my mom far too early…the day before her 58th birthday. I promised her I would do something significant with my life…something that would make her proud. Running allowed me to grieve her loss when I easily could have become bitter and angry. But I chose to get busy instead, turning the tragedy of losing mom into something amazingly positive.
Thankfully I soon became involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America’s Team In Training program. With the help of thousands of runners, we were able to raise millions of dollars which provided hope and the gift of life to so many. My running has provided an opportunity to inspire thousands to do more than they ever imagined. Running thousands of runners into the finish line of marathons throughout the world is one of the greatest gifts I’ve received. It’s magical to feel their emotions and witness their sense of accomplishment.
I am extremely grateful that running has provided me with more than I ever dreamed of having. I never take for granted the great health and wellness that I have, particularly when I see the general health of the average American. I have shared my love of running with thousands of other runners have created a new coaching business (The Marathon Coalition) that empowers others through running.
I have also shared running with my Lori and Rider. I know that Macie will not be far behind. I dream of someday running a marathon with Rider but realize I may be an anchor to him when that day arrives. I wouldn’t want him to attempt a marathon before he’s 20 and I’ll be 62…time will tell. But I will definitely still be running marathons then if I’m blessed to still be here.
As I circled the track in the pouring rain and the dark, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am. Lucky to be alive and healthy, lucky to be able to run and push my limits; lucky to share this wonderful sport and lifestyle with all the runners that I’ve coached.
I hope that you also consider running a gift!