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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