Running: A metaphor of life

By Reade Brower | Apr 18, 2019

Last week’s hugging column led to side conversations, including the notion that personal space needs to be respected and non-huggers not shamed. The same courtesy can be considered for huggers; sometimes we get into someone’s “bubble” and don’t know it, or forget that person doesn’t like to hug.

Respecting and reading body language is important, but not foolproof. Asking about hugging is fine, but putting people “on the spot” defeats the purpose. Hugging used to be part of my employee meeting at year-end. I started asking for the OK to hug (from males and females) and it became cumbersome and awkward (no one says no to the owner) for both parties so the annual tradition ended. Good, bad or indifferent, appropriate hugging is here to stay.

***

With the Boston Marathon and the local Tax Man 5K in the rearview mirror, running is this week’s topic.

Why runners run is complex. Ken Waltz, Courier Publications sportswriter, wrote “Free from Constraints: Barefoot Runners’ Toes Long to Roam.” It was about a Midcoast trio, including me, who run barefoot.

All three had different reasons. It is about getting back to the earth and changing your gait to how nature intended (running on the pads comes naturally barefoot, rather than the heel striking that happens with sneakers). For me, it’s also a mindful way to run; you have to pay attention and be in the moment.

My hometown friend Rita runs for cookies; when you want to eat extra, something has to give; it’s either your belt loop or some extra road miles to burn calories.

For others, running is part of their identity and something to excel at; winning local races or participating at a high level raises self-esteem and can be about being your best.

Some run for solitude, others for social. Running with “buddies” and then breakfast are a favorite Sunday double-header for me. My social circle is built around running.

At my 50th birthday, friends and family from different eras were there; high school and college, family and extended family, business associates, and running friends. When last call came and the dust settled on the dance floor; the rest had faded but running friends were still kicking it up.

The next morning, a couple of hearty (hungover) runners joined me in the lobby to get in 6 miles.

The thing about running is you push yourself, or you don’t; it is individual.

The metaphor in running to life is multifaceted. Comparing lifeline to a marathon intrigues. If 100 years is a life goal and 26.2 miles the axis, the first 10K is pretty easy (remember, you’ve trained for a marathon or a lifetime). This 26.2 miles equates to about 23 years; like life, you go out faster than you should with some reckless abandon, high-fiving fans along the way and whooping it up. With the next 10K you begin to settle into a pace, just as in life. The body is still strong as you hit the half-way mark.

In a marathon you get a jolt of energy half way and the next 5K is smooth (running in my 50s was strong); your gait steadies, breathing settles in. As you reach 16 miles (mid-60s), aches and pains begin. Mile 20 is where runners hit the wall (80s). For those who have trained well (lived well) the home stretch is relatively smooth (although anyone running 26.2 miles is usually spent at the end).

The speed you run, the discipline you put into training and the amount of “juice” you create in competition mirrors life; fulfillment comes from the outcome.

I began running at 40; it helped me lose over 40 pounds and, just like at races where runners talk before and after races, it opened up a new social circle.

Running highlights: doing the “big-three” marathons (New York, Chicago, Boston), equivalent to business aspirations of “go big or go home.” I’ve done five charity marathons, which fit my notion that doing things bigger than yourself is a lifestyle choice. Being the best I can be running, and pushing myself, spills over to business, friends and family.

My favorite runs have been sunrise or sunset 10-milers — exploring new cities, beaches — and runs when I’ve given up my race to run with someone to help them finish or reach a goal.

Now, the only award for an age division is when no other 60-year-old male toes the line; as in life, sometimes just showing up leads to winning.

In my 50s, I won the male division in a race with 616 runners. It was an all-woman’s half-marathon with “One Lucky Guy” chosen by lottery, where entry tickets benefited charity. I ran the first mile with my wife in the back of the pack, and then faster with each mile. I ran with over 400 women that day, breaking the male winner’s ribbon in 215th place overall with a time of 1:59:02.

Indeed, “one lucky guy.”

The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and endure much.” — William Hazlitt, essayist (1778-1830)

 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.