To be able to run, run as fast as you can, run until your chest stings, run with joy and excitement, is something I haven’t done in years. When I was a young child, I would run without purpose. Running seemed to be a part of being a child. Running was done on a whim, without any degree of deliberateness. It was always more fun when done with friends or with my cousins. We would run after each other. We would run in circles. We would fall to the ground in complete exhaustion, reenergize ourselves with a smidgen of rest and get up to run some more.
I never really cared that much for team sports when I was in school. Football, basketball, those all-American sports that every kid felt they had an inalienable right to, seemed somehow alien to me. The most exposure I had with these athletic pursuits was in gym class. They always felt awkward; like one of us was the left shoe trying hard to fit a right foot. For some reason that I cannot explain even today, I enjoyed the running associated with them.
As I grew older, progressing through junior high school, senior high and graduating, running became less of a companion to me. There was less reason to run, not that I ever needed a reason any of the times I had done it before. While in college, I spent most of my time studying and participating in a small amount of social activity common to being a college student. I had little need for running. Running hardly ever crossed my mind. I took up smoking while in college. It seemed like the cool thing to do.
Three years or so after graduating college and starting a career in public service, I quit smoking cold turkey, picked up a pair of running shoes and hit the ground running five miles per day. Running at this point in my life, at the age of 26, was like going back to visit an old friend. I continued to run religiously through the years. Then:
In 2,000, I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma. This changed the trajectory of my life. Running was still a calling to me; one I couldn’t answer. My inability to answer the calling was amplified at age 62, when I had to have a hip replacement. Although I had read accounts of people who resumed playing tennis, running or some other hard impact exercise after a hip replacement, I feared tempting shortening the life of the foreign object in my body. Instead, I chose riding a bicycle as a substitute for running. Now, after almost eight years, I’m biking with the same commitment as I gave to running.
When I observe runners on the street, I feel the calling, it’s strong, but I can only reminisce. Isn’t it our calling to do what we can, the best that we can?
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.