The other night, I posted on Facebook that I was considering running my first ultra (50K) at the end of April. The response was quick, and though, I suspect, not intended so, quite sharp. “Isn't your wife due at the beginning of March?”. I felt the sting implicit in the question. It was magnified, when a virtual friend whom I've never met, “liked” the question. I quickly responded with an explanation that I would only run with my wife’s blessing, but it begs the question, what am I thinking?
I remember when I first watched Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary that follows six runners of various levels as they train for the marathon. Dick Beardsley, who would later become a hero of mine, said towards the beginning, “when you first cross that line, your life will never be the same”. I was three days away from my first half-marathon, still working to shed the last of my excess weight. I wondered whether he was correct. He was, but only to a degree.
Running in some ways, is a great analogy for life. Life is not a sprint. It truly is a marathon. Or a really long ultra. There are times when you feel great and others where you have to fight to keep moving forward. The analogy only goes so far. In running, hard work almost always pays off. Life is another matter.
I've long struggled to master being what the rabbis called “sameiach b'chelko” happy with my lot. I'm always convinced something better lays elsewhere. The perfect job, the right shul, the ideal community. Something that is going to make me happy for good. It's an illusion, and I know it. But it's one that captivates me. Here's the thing. Unlike with running, there is no training I can do, no hill sprints I can practice, that will bring what I want my way. So I keep on trying, convinced that this time will be better.
There is so much going on in our lives. I feel like my wife and I are both juggling chainsaws, hand grenades and piranhas, all while trying to recite the Gettysburg Address... in French. There's little I can do change the challenges. So running becomes my refuge. The place I go to feel good. To strive. To pretend I can make things better. At least in one area.
I never thought I'd run a full marathon. Once I did, I never thought I'd try something longer. I'm sure 50K is the limit, but how much is that certainty worth, when I've been wrong in the past? Here's the truth. No matter how far I go, no matter which path I take, even when I try to just let things go where they may, I always end up where I started.