These times are strange and unknown. I have always looked forward to the consistency of the race season with a few new events to keep things fresh, but just a few new ones. For years and years, I have come to realize that I am a person who trains and exercises to be in shape for the races on my calendar. This has been my focus and anchoring purpose.
When my son was born, now 17 years ago, I stopped all of the racing that I was doing to spend more time with him and my wife. At the time, I was only bike racing and I assumed that I would still get out and ride every once in a while to keep active and in shape. It took a few months to reflect and to realize that I hadn’t gotten on my bike once. I just stopped altogether. I realized that I wasn’t the naturally active person that I thought I was. I found out that I was someone who trained, not exercised. Without an event, I didn’t have a why to get out the door. I realized that for the first 36 years of my life, I always had a future race on my calendar. Always. That time in my life, 17 years ago, was also strange and unknown. In many ways, just like now.
Right now I am missing my why as my race calendar has been wiped clean.
Where is my why?
Saturday morning, I had a memory come back to me and that memory had a much different why. It made me remember that I also worked out and exercised for love.
I have not seen my boys in over a week as we are all sheltering in place and they are up at their mom’s house. I don’t want to take what I might have been exposed to up to their mom’s so I have used the interwebs to stay in touch. But I wanted to see them. To let them know that I missed them. So I found two items that they each had given me as a gift a while back. I walked out the door in the early morning as the sun was coming up and I started to run up to their house to play a little game of leaving a little surprise for them to find after they woke up. I ran the 4 miles up to their mom’s house, put the gifts on the window sill, peeked in to see their teenage heads still sound asleep (and for many hours still to come) and then I ran the 4 miles home.
I found my new why.
I didn’t walk out through the door to train for a race. I walked out the door to see my sons. To share a bit of my love for them in our new game the Pop Drop on Top. (corny, but they still thought it was cute)
Why did I choose to run. Why didn’t I bike or drive? That goes back to my memory when I was 15 and couldn’t drive. Her name was Jenny and I was in love. It was the night before the football physicals and the summer was coming to a close. She was having some friends over for a sleepover and as we talked on the phone, I said that I was going to come over at 11:00 PM so listen for my tap on her basement window.
She lived 6 miles away.
So at 10:00, I snuck out of my window. I ran the 6 miles down a 4 lane highway, that hadn’t been finished at the time so cars never drove on it, all the way to her house. In my mind, I was making a statement to her how much I liked her. I was going to run all that way just to say hi and be able to see her in a unique way.
Well, I got to her house and tapped on her window. I could hear the soft giggles of teenage girls talking about what they talk about in such moments, but she never came to the window. So…. I just ran back home.
Needless to say, I failed the football physical the next day because the doctor thought that my kidneys weren’t working because I had way too much metabolic waste in my urine and I was super dehydrated. But I had my why that night and it had nothing to do with my upcoming football season.
Even though she later told me that she didn’t think I would do it and it also seemed she wasn’t all that impressed, the night wasn’t a complete waste. That experience planted the seed, that would still take a number of years to grow, that I liked the challenge of long endurance efforts in addition to the blunt, explosive moments on the gridiron.
But that wasn’t the most amazing thing. As I was running home down that dark and empty of stretch of highway, I looked up and was completely swallowed up by a fantastic display of the Northern Lights. I slowed to a walk and then just stood still for a period of time that could have been a minute or an hour. It was breathtaking! Once I started moving again, for the final three miles home, I couldn’t take my eyes off of that shimmering display of what nature can paint.
That was the memory that floated back into my head as I was searching for a why to get out and do a long run. I was going to do it for my boys and do it incase something amazing happened to cross my path.
I thought I only had one why. I thought I knew myself. I think that we all should look back to the days before entry fees and personal records and use some of those memories to find a reason to explore, move, play and live.