Sometimes You Can’t?

Sometimes we can’t accomplish what we set our minds to do.

Sometimes impossible isn’t an illusion… it is real.  Or, at least it seems real.  We strive, we reach, we try – and we fall short, we stumble, we fall.  We reach and try again.  And fall and fail.  We fall and fail and fail again.  Or so it seems…

Sometimes the goal, whatever it is, seems too hard, too distant, too impossible.  We say, “I can’t.”  We say, “It’ll never happen.”  

What then?

***

This year, I quit something.  I never quit, but this year I did.  I had to.  This year the goal seemed, and actually was, impossible.  In the immediate, I can’t do it.  

But that doesn’t mean that I won’t succeed in the future.

Impossible can be a stumbling block.  Challenges can daunting and frightening.  Failure can be seen as permanent. 

It’s not.  Failure is not permanent.  It never has to be.

And even though I quit this time, I’ll succeed again in the future.

***

This post has been written in my head a million times over the last nine or ten months. It’s taken different themes in a variety of ways, it’s been rewritten, revised, modified, put to bed…and it came back again and again.

At times, this has been an “I can’t do it” post. 

At other times, it has been an “I can overcome anything!” one.

I didn’t know how to write this because each day I felt differently.  I didn’t even know quite what I was driving at.  Or towards.

When I was feeling strong, I thought I’d write a post that shared by exuberance.

When I was in pain and down, I needed to write to share my despair.

I am a marathoner.  That’s who I am.  I’m the guy that can run through pain and discomfort.  I’m the guy who ran the NYC Marathon with a stress fracture in my foot.  

I’m the guy that can run forever – always. 

I’m the guy who was Superman.  

Except, I’m not super right now.  I’m just a man.  And self-doubt is the worse kind of doubt.

***

I have never really doubted myself before.  I’m they guy who wrote “Impossible is an Illusion” (both the book and the quote).  I believe I can do anything.  I believe we all can.

And we can.

And I can.  

Just not this year…

***

2017 has been my worst year physically – in an athletic sense especially.

I have long written and prophesied that running is hard and that running hurts.  It is and it does.  Running is hard.  It’s always a struggle.  Even when I was running fast and I had youth and vigor and energy, each run was a challenge.  Running hurts.  Always.  That was a lesson I taught my own children.  I told them, “Even the easy runs are hard.”  And they are.  

I don’t think I ever had an easy run in my whole life.

And, I think, that’s why I love running.  I don’t like easy.  Running, running marathons especially, is something that the faint of heart can’t comprehend or do.  The only way to run a marathon is to push through pain and misery and self-doubt.  The only way to do it is to be better than yourself.  

I am used to being better than myself.

I liked digging deep and finding something inside that I didn’t know was there.  One might call it an “inner resolve.” Others might call it heart.  

Whatever it is, it’s what helps a runner push through the misery when his body and mind say to stop, when his energy is depleted, when his focus is gone, and when he knows he cannot take another stride forward – until he does!

I used to feel like I had an endless reserve of this ability to push through anything.  I felt that I could dig deep whenever I needed to, and that, when I was at my worst and most desperate moments, that I could always, always,  find that inner strength to go further.

That endless reserve finally abandoned me this year.

***

I’m pushing 50-years old.  I never want to get old.  I don’t want to be sedentary.  I can’t be. Most often I can’t even sit still anyway.  (That’s not my greatest trait in long meetings at work.) 

I’m am looking forward to a vigorous old age.  An old age of travel and of exploring and an old age of excitement.  I  ain’t gonna be sitting on the couch watching TV, that’s for sure.  

But this year my body has felt more like an 80 year old than a guy who is just 49.  

I’ve always had pain.  That comes with running and from hard work. This year it’s been different.  The pains, the stiffness, the sore Achilles, the physical stuff that comes from being older…

My body doesn’t recover as it used to.  

I found that things like running and playing competitive softball don’t necessarily mix well.  Trying to run the day after a hard ballgame (or even the day after the day after) is hard. My legs are heavy. Everything hurts.  Every step is a struggle.  A mile is an eternity.  The thought of 10 or 12 miles is absurd.

This all made me realize that I’m as young as I used to be.

Worse, this all made me realize that I’m not as young as I think I am.

***

I was registered and getting prepared to run the 2017 New York City Marathon. But, because of all of the above, I was way behind all my running plans and goals.

Because I was running slower than in the past, even my short runs became long runs.  

I was hoping that my experience in the marathon and the fact that my body knows what’s coming would help me gear-up well enough to run the race.

But it wasn’t to be.  

And I had some good long runs.  I did a 15 miler.  On another occasion, I reached 14 miles.  I had a few other 10+ mile efforts.  But I struggled through these like I never struggled before.  And, the days after?  Not good.

My body, which I have pushed hard for the last two decades just didn’t bounce back as had been typical before.

My almost-fifty year old body told me that I’m not ready to run the marathon.  If you can’t train properly, you don’t deserve the ultimate prize – the marathon.  

So I had to quit the charade.

***

My body is telling me different things.  

Over the last year, when I have pushed myself, the results haven’t been what I have always experienced.  

My body is telling me different things.

I know what a hard run feels like.  I know what an easy run feels like.  I know what each effort should feel like – on good days and bad days.  Most often though those feelings are not what I am experiencing.  It’s all different.

My body is telling me different things.

There used to be a bounce in my step…

Runners have to listen to their bodies and over the last year, mine has been speaking a different language.

***

In the short-term, it would be impossible, given my training and tired body, to run the 2017 New York City Marathon.  That’s not an illusion – that’s real.

But to say that I’ll never run a marathon is just simple thinking.  I can and I will again.

I just need to learn some new things about myself.  I may need to run differently.  I may need to find a new balance, new ways to push, and find a long-term strategy that works.

I think I will need more off days between long or hard runs.  I just need a new strategy.  

I need to learn how my close-to-middle-age body reacts to the stresses of life, to the rigors of exercise, and to the experience of running.  

But, before I do that I’m taking a few weeks off from running so I can heal, come back stronger, and run again.

***

“A marathon?” you ask.  “Will you ever run a marathon again?”

Of course I will.  But not just that.  I plan to do just a little more…

I will get back out there soon.  I plan to relish in all the experiences of running that include suffering, pain, and the joy one achieves when he overcomes.

I’m looking forward to overcoming!

I’m looking forward to finding the joy.  I’m looking forward to discovering what I can do now and not thinking about what I did before.  (Maybe that will make me better than ever!)

I ‘m looking forward to enjoying the struggle and the hope that comes with giving one’s best.

I’m looking forward to training.  I’m looking forward to racing.

Soon.

A marathon?  No, not just a marathon.  I’m thinking of more than that…

I’m gearing up to compete (if only against myself) in a silly collection of races in Disney World in 2019 called the Dopey Challenge.  (That is four races in four days – a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon, and a full marathon.)  I can do it.

I will do it.  

Impossible is an Illusion!

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Running Currahee

Ever since my son Ryan had the same thought I did for an activity during our visit to see him in Georgia (“Three miles up, three miles down…”), I had been thinking of running Currahee Mountain.

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Currahee Mountain is the (extremely) large hill that was used as a (very difficult) physical fitness activity at Camp Toccoa during the early stages of paratrooper training during World War II.  The stories of the training, and the success of the troops, has been immortalized in the book and HBO miniseries Band of Brothers which tells the story of Easy Company from the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne.

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Currahee!

It was the day before Fathers’ Day.  With the school year winding down, and summer beckoning, I found a few moments of quiet respite in my home.  For the first time, in a very long time, I felt myself relaxing.  Calmness and peace, two emotions I don’t experience often, were not as far away as they normally are.

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The New York City Marathon 2016

This blog post will be a little different than the others.  It might not end up as a coherent passage with one main theme.  More, it’s a stream-of-conscious recollection of my experiences at this year’s New York City Marathon.

As I am writing this passage a week after I ran, I’m sure some of the most poignant and special things that I wanted to remember have been lost among the crowds, thrills, and emotions of this wonderful and inspiring annual event.

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Running is Hard. Life is Hard. It’s all Good!

I like to run.  A lot.  I like running very much (so I like running a lot).  I also like to run a lot of miles (so I like running a lot).   (I like when a sentence such as “I like running a lot” can be interpreted two different ways.)

When I run, which is most often on a treadmill at irrational hours of the early morning, I usually listen to music on my iPod.  I often get inspired by inspiring songs.  (I wonder how many other obvious statements I can write in this passage.)

I find every run, no matter what the distance, to be hard.  Every single run presents a challenge.

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Success or Failure?

I’m training for a marathon.  This will be my 20th marathon.  I’m excited and eager to get to the line and run this race.  I think it will be my best race in a long time.

There’s only one problem.

The race is 34 weeks away.

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The Story of a Winner (Meb Keflezighi)

It is probably somewhat normal, even for adults, to have favorite sports figures that they root for.  Baseball, football, and hockey players, tennis and golf stars, auto racers, and others come to mind.  With that being said, there are probably few people who have a professional marathoner for whom they root.

I am one of those people.  I am fan of Meb Keflezighi.  He’s a champion marathoner.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

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26.2

For a short time, I was going to title this blog 26.2.  Why 26.2?  It’s simple, that’s the distance of a marathon.

I run marathons.

I’m not fast.  I don’t ever win.  If I finish in the top 20% of all runners in a given race, I am thrilled. Lately, as I get get older, I am becoming happy to finish in the top 50% of all runners.

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