Let me count the ways


Remember when I mentioned that my love for running stems from all the things it has brought in my life? Well, grab a cup of coffee and find a comfy seat (or if you're like me and up at ungodly hours nursing a newborn, bust out your iPad and balance it awkwardly on your lap, cradling baby with one arm and finger-scrolling with the other hand). Wherever you find your reading spot and whatever beverage you choose to imbibe, get cozy because here's that story. 

Running and I go way back. Back before I was conscious of it. You know, when it wasn't about training yet and all it served me for was as a means to get to the other side as quick as possible without getting caught in Red Rover, Red Rover. Sadly, I was not that naturally gifted speedster that always won the game. I was slightly above average, if we're being honest here, but nothing indicated that I was destined for greatness. That was more apparent for my twin sister. 

In middle school, part of the end-of-year Phys Ed evaluation included a timed mile. Each class would toe the line, boys and girls together, and make their laps around the perimeter of the playing fields. To me, it was just another assignment. I wasn't remotely interested in competition, I just wanted to get it done within the time limit to get the credit. My sister, on the other hand, was what we call a "fireball". She had PE at different period so we weren't in the same class and while I ran/walked the mile with a couple of friends, casually bringing in the rear in just under nine minutes, she was throwing elbows and out-sprinting the boys for top honors. I was so proud when the list went up a week later: Top 10 boys and girls in the school - my sister ranked third. 

Over that summer, before entering high school, my sister received a letter in the mail inviting her to join the Cross Country team. We didn't even know what Cross Country was but it was sent from and signed by the coach. Her first recruiting letter. Reluctantly, I agreed to go to the first day of practice with her, for company. We showed up that day in cut-off jorts, over sized Champion tees and Adidas Gazelles. I remember my coach staring right at us during Orientation, advising those of us who were there to take it seriously to invest in a pair of "running shoes". Mortification. I felt all eyes burn holes in my skin as the group followed his stare. Needless to say, I was clueless.

I should have been more savvy. My dad ran marathons. I had even been there at the finish of a couple of them. But all those 26 miles before the final glorious .2 I witnessed were non-existent to me. As were the early morning training runs before work (probably while I was sitting on the bus to school). And the fact that he himself had been a member of the Cross Country team when he was in high school. Amazingly all that history wouldn't be revealed to me until years after I entered the sport. 

Anyway, when we signed up for the team that summer leading into the 9th grade, my dad took us out for our first run. "Just one mile"' he promised. But twenty minutes in, with no finish in sight, we were on to him. "Where's the mile?" I whined. "We passed it almost two miles ago" he chortled with delight. Yeah, hardy-har-har, Daddy-o. What I really wanted to do was push him right into the the canal we were running along side. With just minutes to go until we were back where we started, he pointed out the finish and challenged us to "kick it in". Pissed as I was for his misleading us, I had just the drive to shift into that gear and sprint to the end... getting SMOKED by my sister, of course. 

That was the foundation for a life long passion: a hint of a natural gift, combined with the challenge of doing a thing, and the pride of proving to yourself that you can, topped off with a bond shared between me, my sister, and our father. Next went up the framework: camaraderie, friendships, community. Then, the walls: commitment, determination, perseverance. And finally the roof: accomplishment, success, personal bests. The end result is a beautiful house and inside a safe, familiar home. You can leave it - go away for a while - but it's always nice to come back and you never want to stay away long. It's so much more than a verb and that's why it's kinda amazing.

Oh, and I never would've met this man here - the father of my son - if it hadn't been for running. So yeah, I owe it all my devotion.


JosiJoy said...

Hey Lew,
Thank you so much for sharing! This is a great way to keep in touch. I just finished my last stressful day today and I have been chilling since 4pm my time (I took an hour nap heehee). I am really tired because it has been a long week and a half. No time for a run, but school's out next week and then I will be able to run again! I ran with Micha 2 weeks ago and since then, I haven't made it out again due to all the work I've had, but I am looking forward to my next run even more so. Also, thanks to running, I met you and Claud, 2 of the most important people in my life, so I am thankful you ran and also came to N.C. State to live with me! Your dad was an amazing guy and I remember when he helped you girls move in. He had such a presence and it was so nice to have known him, to have known your and Claudin's hero! Great picture. Love and miss you!

Anonymous said...

Jos, you and the rest of my former teammates are some of the most amazing people I've ever known. I'm SO greatful that our relationship has endured these last 10(!) years and that we're even stronger in our friendship now than back then! Papi loved your spunk the minute he met you and I'm so glad you got to know him. xxx

Teresa said...

mmm...I remember that telephone call, to me, I guess the running team leader JP? well, I also remember how unhappy you went in the car ride I gave you to the Seneca Park on Clopper Rd. You did not want to get out of the car, so I told you, stay here at the entrance then, I will be back to pick you up in one hour. I felt like the bad witch while doing some errands and buying things that were not in my list of priorities. When I got back, sharp on the hour, you guys asked me if you could join the team for a pizza get together...after the run. Yes, I said, without any emotion, but when I got going I said an enthusiastic YESSSS you were hooked. I don't have to mention the joy your papito had when I told him the short story...we decided we would not show our excitement...and we did.

Anonymous said...

You put in words exactly the memories and feelings in my mind of that beginning to our relationship with running and the incredible friendship that were formed thanks to it. *LOVE*

Anonymous said...

I forgot about the pizza social, Mami. Thanks for reminding me! It's nice to piece back together the memories.

Anonymous said...

And I didn't even get into Brer Rabbit and his "laughing place"... Oh how I miss Papi!


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