Everyone has some sort of support system. Sometimes its their parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, peers, hell, it can even be themselves. A lot of times a running support system is not something you think about if you aren't a runner. When you see someone running, training, racing, they are usually alone. Someone on the sidelines doesn't see the support system, and understand how important its existence, or non-existence is, to a runner.
So recently I was asked how it makes me feel to be told I inspire someone. At first I wasn't sure. Up until being asked this question I had never considered that anything I do, or have done, or any of the things that make me who I am, would ever inspire anyone else in their journey through life. When I look in the mirror I see years of wasted potential that are just now starting to take root and grow into something meaningful. That has never really seemed like an inspiration to me.
This feeling is backed up by a lot of fact. I mailed in the first 25 years of my life. I did the absolute minimum to get by, and was lucky I never wound up dead or in jail. The only reason I have a career now is because I was blessed with some semblance of a brain, that despite my best efforts to kill its contents, has managed to outperform my expectations. I was lazy, unmotivated, and most likely drunk or high most of the time. I thought I was entitled to the world but wasn't willing to lift a finger to help myself get out of bed on a Saturday morning. The list of mistakes I made during this period of time is long, but those are stories to be told another day. About the only non worthless thing I did was run and lift, and even that was a purely vain action. That's not very inspirational.
When I met my wife in 2005 I slowly started to change. I started my own business, got my graduate degree, invested more in my career and in my future. I lost my way a little bit through some tragedies that occurred and stopped running, but with my wife we got through it together. No more drugs, no more drinking, no more smoking. My daughter was born, then my wife got pregnant with our son. When I started running again it was to be healthy for my family. It has obviously become much more then that, though I don't know if inspiration can be found in that.
Every day, I try to do a few things that are important to me. I try to be a good father. I try to be a good husband. I try to give running my best effort. I try to do my job to the best of my ability. Many days I fail at one, some days I fail at them all, but I always get up and no matter how bad a day goes I give it my best effort. I go to bed many nights feeling like I have let my family, my employees, and myself down. Being an accountable and responsible person is a lot harder then being a screw up was. No matter what though, when I get out of bed the next day, I still feel a million times better then I used to, because I know I am going to face the day and give it my best shot. I don't know if that's inspiring, I just think its normal.
So where am I going with all of this? I realized it has nothing to do with me or how I see myself. When someone tells me I inspire them, as I said above, it makes me feel good about myself, and that's the most important thing it does. I don't have a lot of family support, friend support, cheering section, etc. in my life. I am very critical of myself and have always felt if I stop and congratulate myself and let up I will slip back into the past I have struggled so hard to escape. Life has beaten me up more times then I can count, and no matter what I always get back up. Having someone tell me that I inspire them makes the next time I have to get back up a little easier, because it means someone believes in me. To someone that hasn't experienced that often in life, that means more then anyone could ever imagine.
Make sure you tell the people who inspire you that they do, you never know how much it might mean, not just to you, but to them as well.
There is no finish line.
Fellow RunJunkEes Sponsored Athletes Megan and Andrew inspired me with their blog posts today, this is the result. Many mornings this is what I go through, and why I run even when I don’t want to.
I have a confession to make: I didn’t want to run today. I woke up before the sun came up and I was too tired. I am having a bad week at work and the extra sleep would be welcome. My calves hurt because I have increased my training and decreased my rest days. When I got out of bed to turn the alarm off I was hit with a terrible headache. My knees were stiff as I made my way to the bedroom door and headed downstairs. As I put my running clothes on my back ached. Mentally exhaustion had set in before I even began stretching as I looked at the unanswered emails on my work phone. As I did my warm up stretches and settled into the fact that my run was happening, as I worked out the aches and pains of yesterday’s miles, and last week’s miles, I still thought: I don’t want to run. After my stretch I laced up my shoes and you know what I did: I ran anyway.
Why did I run? I ask myself a lot. This is why.
I ran because I used to be a quitter. Anything that was hard I quit. It’s a miracle I finished college and ever started my career. I didn’t make the commitment for my currently scheduled races and training to go back to being the man I used to be. Everytime I hear the voice saying “I don’t want to run” I know it’s him. He will be there every day, and every day I will do the same thing: I will run anyway.
I ran because I survived a suicide attempt. I died and was given a second chance. A second chance that I am not going to waste. I don’t know all the answers to why the powers that be gave me a second chance. I do know some of them: to be a husband to my wife, a father to my children, and as I have found my passion, a runner. I am not going to waste any chance I have to be one of those things, because what I don’t do today I may never get a chance to do tomorrow.
I ran because of those I have lost to cancer: my mother, grandmother, nan, other relatives and friends. When I am at my lowest point on a run, when I can’t breathe, the sweat is burning my eyes, my lungs are on fire, my calves and knees want to buckle, that’s when I am closest to them. If my mother can fight cancer to be with her children a few weeks longer, I can run another mile. If my grandmother can smile at me even though she is close to death, I can pick up the pace. If my nan can battle cancer for close to 30 years I can sure as hell put in 7 miles before breakfast.
I ran because of my family. I never had a great role model growing up. My role models were getting high and drinking. So guess what I grew up to do? Get high and drink. Smoked 2-3 packs a day. Great role model for my kids. Great path through life. Always in the way, doing something stupid, apologizing for mistakes I don’t remember. That’s what I grew up with. That’s what I was. No more. Now instead of waking up late with a hangover I wake up and train. Instead of sleeping away the weekends I take my kids to the zoo. They will never know the man I used to be, the failure. My wife will never wonder when I am going to be home or worry about how drunk I am going to be again. They will only wonder how fast I will make it to the finish line, or what I am going to do to make their life better today. If I don’t run in the morning I lose time with them in the evening, so the choice is made, get out of bed and go. I can’t protect them from the hardships in life. Bad things can and will happen, to everyone, every day. But I can protect them from the greatest villain of my own life: myself.
I ran because of my dreams. I want to run a sub 3:00 marathon. I want to qualify for and run the Boston marathon. I want to find out how fast and how far I can go. I won’t get there if I listen to the old me, if I hit snooze, if I go out for a drink, if I smoke a cigarette, if I quit. I have given up on so many dreams in my life, I am not giving up on this. The only way to make it reality is to fight for it every day. To be willing to go an extra quarter mile, half mile, take on more hills, one more turn on the trail. Nobody is going to do it for me or give it to me. I have to lace up every day, put in the work, and take it.
I ran today because of some of the people who inspire me. People from online running groups like RunJunkEes, my fellow RunJunkEes sponsored athletes, people in my life that I have run and raced with, and the strangers I see during my runs. The everyday struggle every one of them went through and goes through to get their run in, their training, time with their family, work, etc. Seeing the weight loss transformations, the ultra-running accomplishments, the new PR, someone’s first race, someone’s first 12:00 minute mile. Stop and think about it. It’s all amazing, and it reminds me of how happy running makes me. I am constantly inspired and amazed by what others can accomplish, and when I run, I am a part of it.
Finally, I ran because I am a runner. Not because of how fast or how far I can run. Because I love the physical pain, the mental struggle, the accomplishments, the failures, the times when I amaze myself and the times I disappoint myself. I love the constant challenge to be better today than I was yesterday, and be stronger tomorrow then I am today. Because I am a runner, every mile, every step, every day.
I am a runner. I didn’t want to run today, but I ran. I ran yesterday, I will run tomorrow.
I hope you’ll join me.
There is no finish line.