Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fall Down Seven, Stand Up Eight

It's a bit un-settling that the first entry that I am posting is dealing with something so negative; however, my hope is that this post will breed positivity, motivation, determination, and new found strength into those that read it. April 15th, much like September 11th, is going to be a day in history that leaves you feeling a little bit heavier in the heart. As racers from all over got in the right frame of mind to finish strong and focused on the finish line at the Boston Marathon, tragedy struck as two bombs detonated just seconds of each other. This isn't a blog post to explain what happened, we all know what happened, but it's to look at it from the eyes of a runner. The whole country was shocked, and still is, due to this tragedy. How? Why? WHO? The same questions that are running through my mind, are mostly likely running through the rest of the country's.

Everyone mourned on April 15th, but for a runner, the feeling is much different. I'm not trying to say that anyone feels worse or better, but I know for me personally this definitely affected me, and still is. The running community really IS a community. It's an odd bond, really. I know me, personally, if I am out running and pass someone multiple times during a distance run I always make sure to comment on their run. I don't know these people, but we are like a small family. Someone commenting on a run you just did is not weird to a runner, it is pretty normal. We can be at a race, not know the person to the left or our right, and end up sticking together the whole time, crossing the finish line together, and creating a lasting friendship. The runner's community is a huge family - when something like this happens, it takes a toll on all of us. We may not have known those injured personally, but we still all grieve on a different level for them. It hits very close to home when "one of your own" is hit with such a tragedy.

As runners, running is our escape. It's what we do to get away from the crap that is going on in the world today. All it takes is two headphones, a trail or a roadway, some running shoes and maybe even some Gu, and we are on our way to a mental escape. Each footstep for us is a footstep of mental freedom. The day's worries, stresses, and wonders melt away with every pound of the pavement. Every bead of sweat, is one less thing that we have on our mind. Race days are especially fun as we get to meet other runners, motivate one another to the finish line, congratulate each other when all is said and done...and of course enjoy the free food.

Put very well by a blogger on Runner's World, "This is the closest that I will ever feel to being an Olympian". The Olympic dream is out of reach for most of us, but for those few moments as a medal is placed around your neck as you are breathing hard, feeling like you might collapse, but somehow still smiling ear-to-ear...that feeling makes it all worth it. It makes every shin splint, every time your IT band kills you, every cramp worth it. Running is an escape that makes us feel like we really, truly, honestly are something special and unique in the sports world. On April 15th, I'm sure I'm not the only runner who was angry inside that my little slice of serenity was now being tampered with. This year, as runners make their way towards the finish line at their races, I am sure many of them will be wondering "what if" as they cross. I know I will be...

But that's the point that I am trying to make. I'm still running, as are thousands of others in Pittsburgh. We are still running our race, and we will be running it harder, faster, and stronger than we ever have before. For ourselves? No. But for those who can't run. For those who couldn't finish Boston, and for all of those who were affected by this horrible event. Feelings continue swell within us of extreme sadness, anger, frustration, and confusion, but we are going to use those emotions to fuel us to reach personal records, and to encourage each other just a little bit more to reach that finish.

You see, the running community is very resilient. We live in a resilient nation that always seems to get stronger when we get pushed down, and the running community is the same way. You push us down seven times, we will stand up eight....and if we can't physically stand there will be two strangers on either arm helping us to stand. We don't give up. We don't abandon what we do due to fear. We use it as fuel to keep going to new levels, new heights, and overcome new boundaries. If you are running an upcoming race, run it hard. Dig deep, give it every ounce of energy until you absolutely positively can't give it any more...and then give it just a little bit more for those who no longer can. Do not allow this event to keep you down, allow it to be a force that lifts you up. After all, those involved would never want us to hang back in fear, but to proceed with courage and strength.

Imagine where we would all be, runner or not, if we never tried. You would not be walking if you never tried as a toddler. You fell seven times but stood up 8 then, why not now? You wouldn't be driving if you never tried as a teenager, you couldn't read, you couldn't write, you couldn't do anything if you never had the courage to try. So my question to you is: what is it that you want to do NOW that are afraid of trying? What is it that is holding you back?

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