Last Sunday, 9/11/2011, I ran out the front door for my first full 4 mile run. I was determined to do it. I wore my USA jersey. I wore it for those we lost on 9/11/2001. And I wore it for all of us, here, in the USA. As I ran out the door I had been listening to the role call of the names of the victims that day. And I had the images freshly on my brain of that horrid day ten years ago. Admittedly the only reason I finished that run was because so many of them would have been loving to be able to run. The thought of them propelled me to do what I had set out to do.
While I ran I couldn’t get the thought of them out of my head. Running is not easy for me. And while I thought about them I didn’t think about the running. I found myself thinking about the individuals on the planes and in the buildings. I wondered how many of them rode bikes. Ran marathons, or ran on the treadmill. I wondered how many of them would love to have the ability to run a four mile run with pain in their hips and legs reminding them they run because of, or despite, the pain. They ran or rode, or did what ever they could, because they could.
I get very contemplative when I run.
If I can engage my brain, the run is more than about the running.
Today I went out for my second, full, four mile run.
And I thought about the runners, bikers, and doers on those planes and in those buildings.
And I thought about all of the other runners and bikers, and doers who have come and gone before me. Who can’t.
During part of my run today I imagined if they could they would all “jump in” and take over my body and run to their hearts content. Just one more time. Yes, I have a great imagination. I think part of me was hoping they would because no matter how powerful my imagination is it does not make my body work better. But I don’t think anyone wanting one more run would complain if I let them borrow me to do it in. Win/win. They run and I get a good work out. Even if I mentally didn’t get to participate.
I had a conversation with some friends yesterday and one of them told me to read “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant. So I read it. How, you may ask, does this tie in to what I’m writing about. First, read the poem, then come back here.
In my head, it connects.
During today’s run I thought about all of the people who came before me and ran. Think, of the millions of them. Running isn’t a new phenomenon. Man, and woman, have been running since our feet first hit the earth. We ran to survive. We ran to outrun those who wanted to make a meal of us. And to outrun those who would become our meals. We have been running since we have stood upon two feet.
The poem “Thanatopsis” is about death. But it’s about all that were here before us. And when we go, we will all go the way of … each other. After my first reading of it my favorite line was:
“Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone,
nor couldst thou wish Couch more magnificent.
Thou shalt lie down With patriarchs of the infant world–with kings,
The powerful of the earth–the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre”
After a few more readings, it’s still my favorite line.
Though I don’t mind a full discussion regarding this poem I’m just referencing it here for the purpose of my run today. It played through my head as I ran. I ran today because I could. And I thought of the many, many before me who ran. For whatever reasons. But they ran. And regardless of my ability as a runner today, when I am gone, I will go the way of all great runners. All lost runners. All mediocre runners. And all runners like me.
I run, or bike, or kayak, or do martial arts, or write, or love all that I do because there is something about it that propels me in to living and loving it.
My run today was full of thoughts of runners past.
And runners yet to lace up.
It occurred to me while I ran that it doesn’t matter how well I run. In the end we will all be running to the same place.
My run is taking me to the place of Kings, Queens, and hoary seers. And the bikers, runners, lovers, and doers before me.