Friday, May 10, 2013

Two Stories

Two stories were published recently, several months apart, in the morning newspaper that I read.  One story was about a billionaire who wants to build a golf course and luxury hotel on a 100 square mile area of frozen wilderness in Iceland.  Apparently this billionaire has partners and investors who are willing to do what it takes to grow grass in a part of the world that has not seen grass for thousands of years.  One of the Icelanders was quoted as saying, "Golf here is difficult."  Yes it is.

The second story was about a shop owner in India who, while walking to the train station, saw children playing in the dirt under a bridge.  He wondered why they were not in school so he asked their parents.  He discovered that they could not afford to send their children to school and that the schools were too far away in inaccessible places.  So, this shop owner, with no formal training, decided to become the teacher of these children.  But he had no supplies, no books and more importantly no building in which to teach. This did not stop him.  The next morning he came back with a chair, sat it under the bridge and began to teach the children.  Weeks went by and the number of his students grew from just a few to over 100.  People began to see the good he was doing and donated supplies and clothing.  The children now have foam mats to sit on while they listen to their shop owner teacher.

Two stories about two men.  Both men wanting to do the impossible; one man whose efforts will cost millions of dollars and will change a landscape; the other man whose efforts depend on the donations of others but is changing the lives of hundreds of people. 

So, which of these two people are we?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Running with My Heroes

Two of my heroes growing up were Glenn Cunningham, and Jim Ryan.  Cunningham was badly burned in a fire when he was 9 years old and doctors told him that he would never walk again.  Fourteen years later he broke the world record in the one mile run.  Jim Ryan was the first high school runner to break the 4 minute mile barrier.  He went on to shatter  the world mile record in college and some think he was the greatest runner of all time.

These two people inspired me to run, although I never accomplished what they did.  I began running at an early age.  I ran everywhere I went. This concerned my grandmother so much that she stopped me one day and told me "If you don't stop running everywhere your heart is going to burst."  But I didn't stop.  I loved to feel the power in my legs and the movement of my body.  There was a joy in it I could not explain.  And I still have trouble explaining why I run.  But those who run will understand.

Running is the common thread that runs through all of my life.  Running has taken me to different places; on busy streets and deserted trails; to early morning lakes with fog coming off the water; to blazing hot asphalt streets; to college towns; to country roads; to the mountains and to the beach.   I have run in all the variations of weather; in the 90 degree heat of August; in the snow and deep, bone, chilling cold of winter; in the beauty of autumn and spring. I have met many different, interesting people; blind people who hold a partner's shoulder while they run 6 minute miles together; a man who ran the Cooper River Bridge Run with a trained seagull flying just above his shoulder; people who run in costumes.

And there is nothing better than reaching the point in your run where you feel like you can run forever.  You can't, really.  But in that moment of euphoria, you feel like you can.  And in that moment, things come into focus and you hear things you have not heard before and you see things in minute detail.  It is an out of body experience.

So, for 51 years I have been running.  I have had my running highs and my running lows.  But, about a week ago, I had the greatest moment of all of my running days.  Erin, my daughter, and Jeremy, my son, ran with me in the Skyline 5k here in Charlotte.  My wife, Melanie, walked the distance. This was the first time that we had all been part of the same running event.  Erin finished first of us all.  I came in a distant second.  But, as I ran to the finish line, I saw her standing nearby cheering me on and I felt nothing but fatherly pride.  She and I waited at the line for Jeremy and I felt another burst of love for him as he finished.  Melanie finished a few minutes afterward and as I stood looking at the three of them, for one glorious morning I was truly in heaven.

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