There was a moment today
When what I thought I knew
Proved only to be a memory,
Long held over for at least a decade or so
And erased in the course of a few seconds.

See, a ways back in my life,
The Fairthorn hill was only sort of tough,
That was until you reached the STOP sign.
From there it was a walk to the peak.
All these years later, now it’s a run to the top,
Walking isn’t “allowed” until the downslope.

I was thinking about that little bit of road,
Fairthorn and how much better it is than Sickle
When I got all pandemic courteous
And started weaving around a mother-daughter pair
Before mentally mapping how I would navigate
The lone walker up ahead.

Back when Fairthorn stopped short,
There was a runner who did all the crazy stuff I’ve entertained,
Longer and longer, that’s what I’ve been thinking,
Which is exactly how that dude ran years ago,
Gumpian, out early, out at lunch, out in the evening
He ran so much and was so disciplined
He could tell how fast you were running just by watching.

I checked out from the group for awhile,
He kept traversing the earth,
In ten years, I’ve maybe seen him three or four times.
I assumed he was out there chasing the eagles
While I toyed with the idea of going long,
Of pushing my limits into that thin air.

As I approached, Locust, there he was, the walker.
Once he had been a runner, not twisted into a question mark,
His pace, something he probably never thought he was capapble of,
Was approaching cane or walker slow,
Which was off pace for a guy who used to grind the miles away.

We exchanged runner-social-distancing pleasantries, I turned on
Locust, a longish hill, where there’s normally a walk break
Which I never take when I’m solo and especially today
After seeing my old running partner hobbling down the road.
I thought of him, the uncertainty I felt, and the whispers began,
“That’s not you, mofo, get moving.”

I couldn’t help it, a runner’s mind sometimes runs away.
Controlling those thoughts when the doubt comes or
The negative distractions of excuses and fatigue
Combine to make quitting easier,
Isn’t that really the battle of being a runner?
Half way up Locust and just before Fairthorn
My mind was leaving me with little hope of continuing.

Yet, as I made the turn,
Thinking of my old partner’s chant of “chop, chop, chop,”
As he would baby step his way up any steep hill,
I found a way to pay attention to the whispers
Instead of the grammatical shape of my old friend
And the idea that I could be on his path.

The stop sign passed, barely even on my radar,
The 82-bridge felt new, I hadn’t run across it since March,
The end was nothing but a “walk in the park.”
Still, I’m wondering if the ultra game is for me.
I suppose I’ll let that stay open-ended for awhile.

What is it that I’m doing
With all of this first-person revelry?
Stories of my experiences,
Poems from my perspective,
How am I worthy of such a public rehashing?

I’ve not done anything grand,
Nothing of fame,
Barely anything for myself,
So where do I get off writing about me?
I don’t know…

I went to school for a long time,
Somehow I survived it
To find a career in education.
My political views and religious bends
Have matured over the years

That’s interesting, right?
I’ve raised a family,
Been through the wringer
In a few ways,
Even grown to love Philadelphia.

You see, it’s the interest meter is rising,
No, I know, the Nielsen ratings are not so high
Where my life story is concerned,
But I hope the words spice it up a little
Taking you somewhere different.

Letting you see some of you in what I do
Have done, what I’m writing about,
Because maybe I trigger something you remember,
Something you have done, thought, or dream of
And you smile, laugh, or best of all cry.

That’s it right there,
Why I write in the first person so much,
I’ve got a lot of education, but I don’t know all that much
So I’m sticking to what I’m good at,
Figuring out me.

For a couple of days
I’ve been preparing to write
About me.
The same old subject,
Facing challenges,
Trying to hold back time,
Getting at the efforts
Required to make it.

For a couple of days
I’ve been waiting to watch
An old Dave Matthews video.
The same old Dave, I figured,
Getting on stage,
Holding court,
Getting at the music
Required of him to make it.

For a few minutes,
I’ve been in awe,
Close to tears
For throughout that movie
Connections have happened,
Millers, Charlottesville,
The white haired guy from Williamsburg,
Old Dominion, it’s all there.

Except in those last few seconds
I realized how little I’m doing.
Sure plenty for myself, but
Giving in to the ease of being me,
Pulling shade over the efforts I know are best.
My friend told me DMB dudes are “good people,”
As far as I can tell, he’s right,
Perhaps this is a new direction.

How can we take schools to better places?
How do we focus on everyone instead of focus groups?
When do we understand that what is good for our kids
Is good for all kids?
When do I find my groove?
Calling?
Passion?
Maybe tonight was the beginning…

The Wood Brothers are playing,
I’m back in Williamsburg
In the heat of a swampy Tidewater day.

It’s raining outside,
A cool Pennsylvania New Year’s Eve rain
And that delta blues groove is drawing me in.

I could be sitting next to the James
With the wind blowing lightly,
The spirit of Carter’s Grove as conflicted as ever.

The land fit for a king,
Supported on the forced servitude of slaves,
Evolved into a sanctuary for me.

And The Wood Brothers are tapping into that energy
Sending my soul to that place where I care
The one where I wish I could wave my hands to erase history

The history of slavery,
The history of doubt,
The one where my head spins without reason.

Truth is those cool breezes spoke to me,
I knew they were telling me things could be better
For us, for me

That people could get along,
That I could be cool with me,
That New Year’s Eve could be sober.

Those breezes are still with me,
They blow a little stiffer now,
Especially, the warm one about caring and purpose

For I’m traveling,
With the energy of the new year,
And maybe I’ll wind up in Williamsburg for real, maybe not,

But one thing is sure,
I’m open to messages everywhere,
Apathy has no shot.

pexels-photo-42384

What do I do with this energy
That goes unused and brings
More static than I can handle?

What do I do with this purpose
That has no intention
Of ever being used?

What do I do with this restlessness
That gives into dream
Of far away adventure?

What to do…

 

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

“Are you really running a marathon?”

It’s a question that has so many implications. On what hand, it’s a question of awe, like “I couldn’t do that. You’re effing, crazy.” On the other, it’s a question that suggests a certain disdain and maybe even jealousy. I never know how to interpret the intentions of the questioner, so I just answer, “Yep.”

“Are you doing Boston?”

That’s the next question that usually comes from people when they find out that I’m running a marathon. I get that Boston and New York are the biggies, the ones with the crazy prestige, but is it possible that the Kardashian effect of being famous for no reason other than being famous is at work in these two bloated races? I mean 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles, right? So what difference does it make if there are thousands of people running the race or just one? Distance is distance and time only time.

In the interest of full disclosure, I never qualified for either Boston or New York in my running heyday. I’m not bitter about it either. Both of those races have a tradition and standard that makes them special. Promotion and history also make them important races. I would never want to be bitter or arrogant by dismissing what those races stand for and have done for charities and the sport of running. However, I think that achievement of running a marathon by only Boston or New York smacks of elitism or backwater ignorance of what runners go through in all marathons.

It’s not the distance. It’s the test. Be it 5K, 10K, or those first few steps towards a new year’s resolution, it does not matter. Being in the game is what matters.

Sorry for the rant…

So the training this week has been tough. I decided to shut down and let my calf feel better. Those who are following along know that basketball has become my Achilles heel and I keep straining my calf playing. As a mark for AARP, I probably should be thinking of not playing the game, but effit, I love the game. Of course, that makes distance running a bit of a challenge. Calves are important for running, but there are workarounds.

The first has been rest, stretching, and water. The more I rest, stretch, and drink water the better my leg feels. The second has been a documentary I saw on Netflix called, “Finding Traction.” (Long story short…it’s about a woman doing an ultra-distance.) It’s awesome because it shows the struggle and potential that is involved when a person decides to test themselves against themselves.

That’s what running a marathon is about. It’s not about the charity. It’s not about the distance. It’s about the runner. What is she willing to do to finish? What are his goals?

And that spirit that is in all of us.

It may not be expressed by running a marathon. It might be expressed by volunteering or becoming an advocate for a cause. The journey may reveal itself in the pursuit of artistic creation. It might just be shown by being a good person every day. Running is only one expression of our potential and it need not be limited to a timed event over a given distance in a “big time” city.

Sorry for the lecture…

As I’m writing this post, I’m listening to a Bruce Springsteen concert I saw in September. It was my first and you know what they say about the first time… Well, this concert was nothing like that because I have vivid memories of being at Citizen’s Bank Park under near 100-degree heat with my son and standing for nearly four hours rocking out. It’s the same feeling I’m trying to capture in this run. I’m getting older. I haven’t been exercising as much as I did when I was young. I still think like a youngster and I’m having a hard time accepting that I have to slow some things down.

I see in that concert a guy who denies accepting whatever limitations age brings. I watched those guys deny time, age, heat, Mother Nature, boredom, and whatever else comes with a rocking chair, a front porch, and whatever pill is supposed to make us stand up and be felt. I’ll let the couch be a part of my life, but I won’t let it rule who I am. My spirit wants to do something, something more than I think I can do right now.

That’s what that concert meant to me. That’s what this “race” means to me.

I suppose that’s why I’m running this marathon of mine. Not for any glory. Not for any pseudo-fame. For me. To prove that I can. It should not be measured by New York, Boston, or the Rock and Roll series. My 493 laps around the indoor track at my YMCA has all the challenges of those races, distance, endurance, and monotony. I’ll be my own crew without any volunteers and for an hour or two, I’ll have thump-thump music from the classes taking place on the gym for below. That has got to be on a par with Heartbreak Hill…

Enough, my friend’s Christmas gift has me going Hemingway (not really, Hemingway, it’s an expression…)

For the week, lots of stretching. Today I played basketball for about fifteen minutes as we were short players at practice. My calf is a little sore, but it’s my middle finger on my right hand that is swollen and blue. I’d show you, but people might be offended.

I could care less about the swelling. It’s part of putting yourself out there.

Thank you for reading about my little marathon journey. Remember, this is about finding purpose in the run. I also have a practical purpose of raising funds for charity. My charity is the Kennett Area YMCA. If you would like to donate to their fund the link is below. However, any charity could benefit from a donation, so if you want to donate somewhere else, I’d love that just as much.

Donate Kennett YMCA: Thanks, everyone!

Maybe they had seen too much Star Trek or Twilight Zone. Maybe they were dehydrated from the steam. Maybe they were worn out from drain of their spiritual quest. Whatever it was, Rory and Allen had to get out of the field house. Mickey said goodbye as the exhausted duo stepped into the field with the goats who were sitting under a pop-up canopy with The Hawk, Ward, and Shade, three principled men. Allen was too tired to react and Rory was like Pavlov’s dogs, helpless to even ask why. Shade pointed to the ground in front of them. Rory and Allen walked over and sat on the ground.

Shade was first to speak, “You are having quite a journey. Now is the time to get out of the sun. There is peace in the darkness. Let the canopy’s shadow soothe your nerves. Never stare directly into the light.”

Ward went next, “Each experience is an investment. You must keep buying in and understanding how each person influences your growth. Your faith will guard and protect you.”

Finally, The Hawk spoke, “Soon you will realize the lesson of thinking before acting. Write down your thoughts and gather them into a list for life. First, though, you will have your energy restored. Go to the annex.”

The bearded goat nodded and began trotting in the direction of the old annex. Allen was still shaken at having danced with a new wave punk spirit, but he followed Rory and the goat knowing that whatever happened would be something to remember. They entered the dark building and the goat pushed open the door on the first classroom to the left, Doc Fallen’s room.

Rory and Allen walked in to what could have been a science geek’s disco. Bunsen burners were lit on all of the tables. There strobe lights on the ceiling. At the teacher’s desk was Doc Fallen who was dropping a funky playlist that somehow had the feeling of a hoedown.

“I’m won’t dance,” said Allen.

“We’ve got to go in, it’s Doc. He was the greatest,” said Rory.

They went in and Doc Fallen hit a switch. The sound system started playing Rapper’s Delight at about four times the normal speed. A filmstrip proctor came on and started showing frames of mountains in the desert with cactus, scorpions, and vultures. Bubbles started rising from the beakers around the room and there was a smell of burning sulphur. The music got faster and the flames from the burners shot higher. Allen twitched like he was about to start dancing. Rory grabbed a blue book from a desk and started brainstorming:

Destination

Mountains

Ultra

Memoir

Suddenly there was pop and everything went still. Rory and Allen looked to Doc Fallen who said, “Somebodies have not written their memoirs. I don’t like to embarrass people, so I’ll just use their initials, Rory and Allen. Go!”

They ran into the hallway passing Mr. Yates’s room making sure not to stare at the light.

The bearded goat headed straight for a black limousine that was parked under the rusting basketball hoops. The other goats stayed with the principals. Rory and Allen also jumped into the limo. There were large take out bags from Pierce’s Barbecue on the seat, pulled pork sandwiches and hush puppies. The car started and the Fat Boys’s album, “All Meat No Filler,” started playing as the guys dug into their first supper.

“I don’t know, Rory, maybe we should be eating wheat germ and blood pudding,” said Allen.

“I couldn’t handle the onions, dude.”

The divider between the front and back of the limo lowered just enough for the driver to hand Rory and Allen proper journals and Sharpie medium point markers for their writing.

“Thank you,” said Rory.

“You’re welcome.”

The chauffeur’s voice was very familiar. Rory was surprised that their driver was a women and that he might know who she was.

“Faith?”

The window came down the rest of the way and sure enough, Faith was the driver.

“What are you doing?”

“My dad asked me to help with his driving today. He said this would be a special trip and that I might be able to help you guys make sense of all the thoughts you would have.”

Faith was good a figuring stuff out. Once in high school she had been able to decipher the lyrics to “Young Turks” for a Sociology project. Nobody else seemed to get it, but her.

“I’m driving and you guys need to get to work.”

“Where are we going?” asked Allen.

“West.”

Rory and Allen decided to start making life lists before delving into the details of their memoirs. The life stories probably would not be that interesting, but maybe they could share their code with people. They also decided that they would not share their lists until the got, “West.”

They drove for several days. Finally, Faith stopped on a cool desert night in the middle of a driving range outside of Tuscan, AZ. Everyone got out of the car and stood under the clearest sky they had ever seen.

“We’ve been here before,” said Rory.

“Yep,” said Allen.

Ever curious, Faith said, “Let’s hear your lists.”

“How about we give our three best and then come up with one together?” asked Rory.

“Game on,” said Allen.

Rory’s Three:

1. Stonehenge: Mystery is okay.
2. Recompense: Right the wrongs as best you can.
3. Swatch Watch: Time is not trendy, it just is.

Allen’s Three:

4. Warrant: Favor comes to those who do good things.
5. Pustules: Accept that success takes hard work.
6. Insatiable: Never lose your love of life.

Together:

7. Diode: Goodness flows in one direction, the positive one.

Faith said, “You guys have written a code that says we should appreciate goodness and that a person cannot know everything. Neither of you seem like young revolutionaries or new wavers, but you’re starting something.”

In the distance someone was smoking cannabis.

The goat trotted off…

tornade004

Circling winds ripping at the very foundation of it all
Tearing apart the fibers that
Weave injustice into our society.

One man with courage and frustration
Can start a tornadic tempest, and
Seek to spin apart the wrongs of power and wealth.

Such a man walking
Can stir up a movement blowing into regions
Long governed by cheap owners.

The storm rises on hope.
The storm is fueled by emotion,
Often wasted allowing the energy to float away.

 

Photo Credit: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild:Tornado_Kansas.jpg