The Night Before I Race

Tomorrow I will run in a race. My very first race. Ever. I won’t win. I’m not even attempting to win. I just want to do it because it’s happening and I’ve never experienced the crowded, jostling crush of a mad pack of crazies determined to push themselves to the limit for various reasons. I will finish and it will be own victory. It’s a personal moment that I will share with thousands. I’m not the first, nor the last. I am a human who can run.

To trace this madness is a futile task. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I think back to the last few years I see a pattern emerge from my reading material. There are clues in the adventure tomes that I’ve favored. Life and death struggles on mountains. Books about pirates. Kayaking expeditions around Australia. Surfing quests. High-seas eco-adventures. War books. More surfing quests. An eco-warrior, desert-rat author’s biography. More war books. Running books. A book about a runner who went to war…

That Louis Zamperini book was inspiring. His story was amazing. Maybe that’s when it clicked. December of last year. I read that book and a few others featuring prominent stories about runners and running. That Born to Run book. It was all stuck in my head. Running was something I could do.

Wasn’t it?

I pretty much hate running.

So, yeah. Let’s try running.

It was awful at the start. The awkward fits and starts. The red-faced gasping and sweating mess that I became as I trotted down the sidewalk. It’s a familiar story, one told many times over on the pages of countless running memoirs. It was me. I could relate. I was not a runner, but I was running on a regular basis.

I’m no runner now, but I have surpassed my goals. I run. I will continue to run. Tomorrow I will stand amongst many others and wait for my turn to bolt past the starting line and trace a path through the city. It’s a short race, just 4.2 miles in honor of Pat Tillman, who died 11 years ago this week in another trade-off war. Tillman wore the number 42 while he attended ASU and played for the Sun Devils. We will all wear the number tomorrow as we run.

It seems to be more than a coincidence that I was partly inspired by a war hero and athlete like Zamperini and my biggest goal so far has been to participate in a race to honor Tillman, a different fallen hero and athlete. We find our muses in strange places.

This running thing is fascinating to me. I fuss over it. I obsess. I have to fight the urge to treat it as some magical power. I am doing it. It is not something that I conjured. I can’t break the spell. I have run more since January 4th than I have ever run in my entire lifespan. And I want to run some more. Maybe this is my version of a corvette. Maybe this is my ear-piercing and frosted-tips.

Maybe I’m just inspired. Maybe I decided it was time to do a little more with my body than what I’ve been doing.

Tomorrow I will run in a race. I will attempt to run every inch of those 4.2 miles without walking. I will finish in the center of Sun Devil Stadium, standing on the grass of the football field where Tillman once competed. I will join the long lineage of athletes and wannabes who seek glory for a multitude of reasons.

Then, I will continue. I will get up on Sunday and probably run again. I will run because I can.

And it doesn’t even really matter why, does it?

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