Chicago Marathon. Done
My first memory is of a foot race. I was four-years-old and a girl appeared in my backyard. She had some connection with the neighbor lady, perhaps a granddaughter visiting for a summer weekend. She was seven or eight and used big words I couldn’t understand, my sole education being Reading Rainbow and Golden Books. She seemed incredibly tall. My height was still yet measured by two pencil marks on the kitchen wall, while she seemed at least nine pencil marks in. This girl was the most exotic encounter I’d ever had.
I write this while on an overnight train out of Chicago and bound for New York. I ran 26.2 miles yesterday and I don’t know what that means. I don’t know when this race began. tweet
We lined up side-by-side at the corner of the yard and we ran. This neighborhood girl whose name I can’t remember nor ever saw again buried me over a distance of 20 yards and left me huffing and puffing with my hands on my knees. Her dark hair blew out behind her, her long strides carried her away through the grass. She was uncatchable, unattainable, unbeatable; she was fast and she beat me. But I didn’t feel shamed or defeated. I felt exhilarated. I felt happy and humbled, in the way one feels when standing beneath a mountain range with the moon hung on the pines. My heart pounded so hard it made me shy. Of course, I probably fell instantly in love with her then—this girl who outran me in my backyard when I was four—but at that age I was just as in love with everything else in the world. She was simply the newest piece in all that wonder.
I write this while on an overnight train out of Chicago and bound for New York. I ran 26.2 miles yesterday and I don’t know what that means. I don’t know when this race began. As much as I try, I can’t find a corner of the past to lift and say, “Ah, this is where the starting line was!” The longer I look, my life goes back further and further, until the stars in the sky gyrate above and there’s a funny old man with a big funny telescope standing in the desert trying to grab hold the edge of the universe. It can’t be done, funny old man, so sit down in the sand and pray, which is to suggest, say thank you.
If you would be so kind, let me sit next to you and we’ll pray together.
Thank you for letting my feet move. Someday my hair will be gray, my hands will shake and my bones will ache when it snows, and maybe then I can remember yesterday and smile and tell my bones they did their deeds. Maybe I will remember those training runs when it was late and so dark that I shut my eyes and ran by feel, trusting the pavement went flat and straight, and it always did. Or maybe I’ll remember my first four-mile run when I thought I’d never make it, until a crazy-eyed pigeon attacked me and suddenly I found my second wind–then it kept chasing me and I found my third wind too. Thank you, crazy-eyed pigeon.
Run long enough and you’ll get somewhere you never thought you’d ever be. tweet
Thank you for the people who affected my life up until now. For the friends and loved ones, those that I still see and those who left some time ago. Thank you for mom and dad who sponsored my shoes. And also, thank you for those people over the years who weren’t so pleasant, those who inspired my anger and hurt. I’m thankful to them just as much. The funny old man nudges me and winks, “Sometimes we have to sit on cacti, so we’ll know who we are.”
Thank you for the trail. And it would be easy to turn this trail into a crummy metaphor, about how the bad stretches were as valuable as the good, how the turns were better than I could have planned—but let it be. Just thank you. I run simply because there is a trail lain down in front of me and I enjoy seeing how far I can get before my legs give out, not with some destination in mind, but because there is the trail and here are my feet so let’s go. Run long enough and you’ll get somewhere you never thought you’d ever be. Run even longer and you’ll end up back at your car imagining the smell of french fries.
Thank you for most everything. Life is neither a marathon or sprint; it is the foot lifting.
What’s that, funny old man? Ah, yes, the Big Dipper. Look at it go.