Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why Do I Run?

It seems like I go in blogging spurts. There are times when I love blogging and make time to do it regularly and then there are times when there isn't enough time in the day to do all the other things I need to get done.

In light of what has happened in the last couple of days, and with all that has happened in my life since the last time I blogged (now over a year ago!), it was time to get back to it.

A quick rundown of the major events of the last year (both good & bad): lots of running, moved into a new house next to my favorite park in the world (Elm Creek Park Reserve), ran a personal best of 2:54:51 at the 2012 Chicago Marathon, injured my foot as a result of that race, tragic loss of my niece (more on that shortly), got tenured at Wayzata High School and becoming a full-time physics/astronomy teacher next year, got healthy from foot injury, lots of involvement at Eagle Brook Church, prepping for Nicaragua missions trip with my wife in July, and the list could go on.

Why am I blogging today? One word...Boston. I wouldn't say I've been an emotional wreck the last couple of days since the horrific events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but I've been close to that. First of all, I was not there this year, and I will not pretend like I was and I know how everyone who was there is feeling, but each year on Patriot's Day, my heart is in Boston, even if I am physically not there.

I have run Boston twice before, in 2005 and 2011. Both were incredible experiences, ones I will never forget. I've had the great fortune to share those days with my dad (in 2005) and with my wife and her parents (in 2011). Marathons are not just for the runners, it's for their support team as well...something if the general public didn't understand before, they unfortunately know now.

Each year on Patriot's Day, I take time at the beginning of each of my classes to share a little bit about the uniqueness of the Boston Marathon and to show a little bit of the race that day. It is one of my favorite days of teaching each year. The best part is sharing the story of Dick & Rick Hoyt (father-son team that competes each year). Even if you're not a runner, you are inspired by them. My students love it and so do I. That's why what happened this year was so difficult. Only 2 hours after I finished telling my last class of the day about Team Hoyt and seeing the excitement of the elites crossing the finish line, I was rocked by the news of the explosions at the finish line.

I returned home that evening to find my wife having an equally hard time dealing with this tragedy. Only 2 years earlier, she had been cheering for me no more than 100 yards away from where the first bomb exploded. It was way too real. I checked on friends who were there to make sure they were okay, and likewise many of my friends were texting and calling me, not knowing if I was running there this year. I had Facebook posts from people I rarely talk to who said I was the first person that came to mind when the heard the news (thank you to all of you for making sure I was okay and home!).

In the time since the events in Boston, I have dealt with feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, helplessness, but also hope. The first feelings are obvious to anyone who has run a marathon before. We feel like this was an attack on our friends, on our brotherhood or sisterhood of fellow runners. We may not know a single person directly affected by the bombings, but we were all affected because it felt like an attack on us. However, the feeling of hope is one many are not feeling right now, and this brings me back to the title of my blog post today.

Why do I run? Every runner has been asked that question and have certainly asked themselves that question at some point in the running life. My answer hasn't always been the same. At points it was simply to get faster, to be good at something, to de-stress myself, and so on. My answer now simply is HOPE. That word has taken on new meaning in recent months for me. Some of you know that I lost my niece tragically on October 22, 2012 after only 82 days of life. Gracia Lorraine was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a condition where she essentially only had half of her heart when she was born. There are surgeries to make life very normal, but Gracie had too many complications and she went home to heaven after 82 days. Those 82 days with her were some I will never forget. Her room was a place filled with joy, laughter, tears, time with family, and a place where God was truly present. We may never know why this happened to her or why it happens to anyone, but what we were blessed with while she was here and what she has already given to us since she has left, we will carry with us forever. My faith and trust in Jesus has never been stronger and I have Gracie and the rest of my family to thank for that. I have an unshakeable HOPE that I will someday see Gracie again in heaven and she will always have a small piece of my heart.

Since I have resumed running, I have decided to run in honor of Gracie. All of my running shoes bear her name, and I will be running a 5 mile race this weekend in her honor. It is a race in Blaine to raise money for an organization called Hope in Grace (another Grace who was lost to a similar heart condition). My entire family and some of our church family will be joining us to honor Gracie and to celebrate and remember. For the first time, probably ever, I will be wearing pink! Only Gracie would get me to wear pink, and my goal on Saturday is to win that race for her.

Lastly, back to Boston. Runners are a tough, resilient group. We don't back down. We are not shaken. We carry on. We push forward. We fight through the pain, both mentally and physically. What I saw on Monday after the explosions happened were countless runners forgetting about their race (even as big an accomplishment as finishing Boston is) and coming to the aid of their fellow humans. Runners understand that running is simply something we do. It does shape who we are as well, though, and that's a good thing. The sport of running teaches you some of the greatest values in life that many other things don't. An event like a marathon shows us those great aspects. Courage, toughness, not giving up, accomplishing a difficult task and taking joy in putting forth that effort. Boston 2013 also showed us that runners (and all humans) have the capacity to provide HOPE to a broken, dark world. Selflessness, sacrifice, bravery. There is HOPE in this world because the good truly outweighs the bad. My prayer is that more good from this tragedy would be shown on TV and through social media. That's what our world needs to hear about. I have a HOPE in things not of this world because of what my savior, Jesus Christ, has already done. It gives me HOPE in this world in knowing that it will not always be this way, and there are millions of us around the world who feeling the same way.

So, why do I run? I run for HOPE. I run because I have HOPE in something beyond this world. I run because God has blessed me with a passion and a joy to run, and through running I can provide HOPE to others who may not have it. I will be in Boston again to compete in the next few years because I have HOPE in the people of Boston and those Boston Marathoners. We will not be shaken. We will not be scared away. We will push on. WE WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE HOPE.