Monday, November 8, 2010

Imagine a Runner

I have been distracted all day, waiting for news, and engrossed in attempting to track my father's progress along his marathon.

The NYCM servers were completely overwhelmed most of the day by people attempting to track their favorite runners. I did not ever get to see my father on the map of the route, which would have been very cool. (I did see the Chilean miner who was running the race, but who had to stop because of knee injuries.)

Fortunately, I paid a little money to have updates sent to my mobile phone.

Bless the Internet! Every time my father passed another 5K, they'd send me a little automatic text message saying what time he'd passed that point, the time elapsed, his pace time, and the estimated finish.

It seemed to take forever to get the first one. His start time was late, late morning, so I kept waiting (and worrying a little while waiting) to see the first 5K notice. Where was he?! Did something happen? Did he not start?

It was a slow 5K. Curses on that uphill bridge! But after that, I'd hear the little buzz every hour or so, and find another update.

The early pace times seemed really slow... but after about 10K, he picked up speed, and kept cruising along steadily in the last two-thirds of the race.

When I got the 40K alert, we got even more excited, knowing that he was scant miles to the finish. We waited, and rechecked the cell until - Bzzt! There it was!

A clean finish, slower than hoped but excellent all the same.

"How old is he?" My friends ask me.
"What was his pace?" "What time did he finish?"

I'm always hesitant to answer those questions directly, because the answers seem misleading. It's easy to look at those numbers and say, "That's slooow!" (And "I run a lot faster/slower than that," if one is a runner, or whatever one says when one is trying to judge if something is "good" or not.)

But the raw numbers do not share the whole story.

Imagine a man who once broke his hip and had it put back together with two pins and a bolt. Imagine that man pushing himself in the hallway after surgery (as one is supposed to), walking laps. His determination got him going sooner and kept him improving faster than other men might have - that's what his nurses said.

And he got back out on the street, and he continued running.

Imagine a man who went in for strange pains and was told that he had to have an emergency bypass, yes today, four of them. And all subsequent complications and further wrenches thrown in by the inevitable aging process.

He may be slower, yes, and he is still running.

Imagine a man who clears brush along public berms so there is more room for runners and cyclists, who is known by scores of people along his busy training route.

Maybe you do have a little hurricane coming through, but he is still running!*
* true story

Imagine a man who has always looked for the best way to maximize his potential, who has tried to undertake things with so much precise and lavish detail that sometimes the trees get in the way of the forest. (Okay, okay, the trees are really cool!)

He plans, and trains, strategizes and analyses, and because of that, he is still running.

Imagine a man who values relationships and sharing experiences over material gifts, who seems to value conversation over status symbols, who sees the value in even small things.

Running with a crowd of fellow-athletes, while running your own race in the privacy of your own head. He is still running.

Imagine a man who values the kind gesture, the symbolic gifts of appreciation and poetry, the symbolic acknowledgements that you ran the race.

You can imagine his collection of racing medals, T-shirts and stories. And you wonder why he is still running!

Imagine a man who never throws a scrap of anything away until all use has been wrung from it.

Man, oh, man. He is still running.

Imagine all that, and then you might get closer to the truth about my father and why he's still running marathons.

How did he do? Well, he finished!
Yay! I'm relieved, but no surprise there, really.

Perhaps better to ask: How is he doing?
And one answer might be: He's testing himself against the wretched weather and the long uphills and his own limitations. He's enjoying the faces and the stories. He's choosing to live the maximum experience over and over and over again.

And therefor, he is still running!

I love you lots, Dad!


Flying Saucer Jones said...

This brought a lump to my throat. Tell your Dad I said hello. He is an inspiration.

Lori said...

Your father is amazing!

Joy! said...

Thanks, I'll pass that along. :)