Friday, January 3, 2014

Letter to 2014 from an Unbowed Runner

Well hello 2014.  Am I ever glad to see YOU.

Your older brother 2013 did his very best to break me, but though he gave it his all, he didn't win.  I'm still here and still standing.  And better: I am running, once again, and I'm smarter this time.

I got benched (again) at the beginning of March.  A creeping Achilles injury finally felled me on the very day I ran my first 800 and 1500.  Being on the bench for six months was terribly hard.  And I got benched right when I was really fit and just barely getting started with track racing.  It was such a long painful road back.  I could finally run again in September, but since then it's been baby steps the whole way.  Only now am I finally creeping back to the 30-miles-per-week mark, a place I haven't been in nearly a year.

The inability to run was both painful and ironic.  I'd been named a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador for 2013, but was hobbled and couldn't meaningfully participate in this incredible opportunity.  Hugh Herr and I partnered with No Barriers USA to start No Barriers Boston, a fund to support persons who suffered amputation in the Boston Marathon bombings, but I found myself largely cut off from the community that would understand that mission better than anyone.  And I continually received email updates and race reports from the Impala Racing Team that I love so well.  Could I help fill out the masters team for an upcoming race?  No, I could not.  All year long, I could not.

During a year lived out in the shadows of grave family illness and the inequality and deprivation that threaten our national equilibrium, all this whinging about such a thing as running seems even to me to be petty at best.  But of the hard lessons I learned this year, one stands out: "running" is a many-dimensioned thing, affording me not only fitness and health (both physical and mental), but also a community, precious beyond expectation.  Running makes my life easier, yes (in ways I do not always comprehend when the alarm goes off in the cold predawn darkness of another day of training).  But running also helps me stay strong for those who need me.

Tonight, in the first days of the new year and on the eve of my birthday, I hope to turn a page.  I'm stepping up my training, but I'm still healthy.  I've been named a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador once again, to my great good fortune.  No Barriers Boston awaits.  So does track season.  And so does all the rest of my complicated but blessedly fortunate life.

And so, 2014, I'm asking you to work with me a little.  I promise to do my part.  All I ask is the freedom to run in the company of my friends.

Allez, hop!  The road awaits!

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