Running is a simple sport, so I've often wondered about the tendency of runners to assign so much meaning to it in comparison to other sports. Maybe I just don't read enough Sports Illustrated or ESPN Magazine, but it seems like there is an incessant amount of YouTube videos, articles and blog posts equating a Sunday morning long run to the meaning of life.
I am guilty of this myself. Take the time I wrote about passion, or the time I compared my current self to my 16-year-old self. Or the entire videos page of this blog. And just a few months ago I wrote, "But when I push myself to my breaking point to see what I am made of, I experience a visceral connection to my natural surroundings, to the athletic world, and to my own being." It seems there is always some life lesson to be learned on the road, no matter how tangentially related to running, and more than enough people willing to write about them.
When I qualified for Boston for the first time at the age of 29, there was the temptation to describe this event as The Most Meaningful Event of My Life, which made not getting to run Boston all the more heartbreaking. The sequel came last year when I replicated this feat while bringing my PR down by 6 minutes. The Most Meaningful Event of My Life Part II.
In short, running has meant a lot to me over the years. It has given me strength, both literal and figurative, and at no other time do I feel as spiritual as when I am running in nature.
All this to say I've been coming to a slow realization this fall: running doesn't matter like I thought it once did. My runs have been slow and forced, my mileage has drooped, and I haven't learned a single life lesson in months. This is all related to becoming a father at the end of August. Because when you witness the miracle of birth and all of the raw emotion that surrounds it, nothing else seems to matter.
You want to talk about pride? Pride is no longer running some distance faster than I ever have before. Pride is making my son smile for the first time. It's rocking him to sleep when he's been crying. It's standing next to my wife, looking down at him as he sleeps, and thinking, "we made that."
You want to talk about heartbreaking? Heartbreaking is no longer not getting to run some race. It's looking into the confused, teary eyes of my son when he's been crying for an hour, and this time not being able to do anything to comfort him.
Maybe I'm simply in a rut caused by fatigue, the frustrations of parenthood and giving up the Philly Marathon this fall. Maybe things will pick up with training in the winter and Boston will be The Most Meaningful Event of My Life Part III. But right now in this moment, this face is more meaningful than any race I have ever done, and any I am likely to do: