Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our Olympic Village

So up until the 1924 Olympic Games, each nation's Olympic body would be in charge of housing their athletes. Usually, they would pick a lodging, or series of houses close to where the games would be held. All that changed in Paris, when a man by the name of Pierre de Coubertin suggested that instead of continuing with this traditional track, that the host nation, provide a location for all participants to reside over the course of the competition.

Thus, creating the first Olympic Village.

The first village was a small, modest number of cabins built near the site of many of the events. It was built, not out of grand design or an attempt to bring athletes of different backgrounds together, but rather as a way to save money on the expensive practice that proceeded it. Years later, when the games came to Los Angeles in 1932, the makings of what we come to expect from an Olympic Village began to take shape. This site, along with residences, added post and telegraph offices, a bank, a hospital, and an amphitheater.

And ever since then, ever since 1924, the Olympic Village has been a part of the worlds Olympic Games. Villages that have seen the likes of Jesse Owen living in the same barracks as his Nazi hosts, countless buildings that lived on long after the games, and for 18 hours in Munich, the site of a hostage crisis that would cast a shadow still felt today.

And while surely what will take place in the water, on land, and, for those breathtaking seconds, in mid-air, will outshine anything that takes place in this village, I couldn't help but spend a little bit of time thinking about it, especially after the morning I had.

Because, while there is no shortage of applicable topics to write about on a running blog when it comes to the Olympics, there was something else that struck me as relevant.

And though I could go on to explain a bit, I feel as though, this headline that just jumped across my computer screen tells it all.

"London Spy Bolt getting mobbed in Olympic village"

It's a story linked on Yahoo News that describes how the worlds most famous sprinter is being treated in London. It talks about how members of the Jamaican team have come to serve as unofficial bodyguards for fellow countryman Usain Bolt, as swells of people descend upon asking for pictures, handshakes, and autographs. How he is being greeted with impromtu choruses of cheers and applause wherever he goes.

And though this is hardly newsworthy, that one of the worlds most recognizable athletes is being treated this way, I should admit that I truncated the title of that article, which should read....

"London Spy Bolt getting mobbed by athletes in Olympic Village"

Cause, you see, it's his fellow Olympians that are the ones seeking handshakes, and pictures. Its not the spectators, but competitors.

But these are the Olympics we know so well. These two weeks, and the various opportunities that these games will teach us, the correct running form, the rules of Handball, and the inspiration that will find us in it's most unlikely forms. From swimmers from small African countries who have never seen a pool that big, or a 45 year old, twelve time silver medalist coming back for one last try for gold, or the runner from Southern Sudan, the site of unspeakable genocide and sadness, who's newly independent country was too young to create an official Olympic body, a man who will compete under the Olympic flag and the watchful eyes of a people yearning for a new identity.

So while I would admit that the Olympic Village will probably not top the charts of things that we are most of us are looking forward to, I wonder if it doesn't actually provide one of it's greatest lessons.

Cause, as I see it, there is just something so unique, and telling about what goes on in this village of the worlds greatest athletes. But I think that's what I like best about it. That these are the worlds greatest, the fastest, the strongest, the best. And yet, for as great as Lebron James is, he can't do what someone a faction of his height, and weight can do on a balance beam. For as fast as Usain Bolt is, I'm guessing he can't repeat his 100m time while doing the backstroke in the pool.

That in this village of weight lifters, and divers, kayakers and ping pong players, there exists a unique brand of greatness in each of them.

So I'm left here sitting, and thinking what that might mean for the rest of us, for the mere mortals who can't hit a bullseye with an arrow, or pole vault twenty feet into the air.

And I'm left thinking about the greatness around me. The things, that like Usain Bolt in the pool, I can't do myself. The friends who dive headfirst into grad school, or med school, devoting their days to consuming as much knowledge as they can. The artists, the picture takers, and poets. And the homeless man, fresh out of a system that conditions you to get yours, to worry only about yourself, who pulls you aside to ask if he can host a dinner to honor, and celebrate someone else.

And after watching an opening ceremonies, watching the worlds greatest athletes enter the Olympic Stadium, watching as the images came through the camera, as the athletes themselves, on iPhones and handheld devices, took their own, I was left thinking about one other form of greatness.

The greatness to be able to see it in others.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Out on a Ledge

The term "Mayday" is one that we have all heard frequently in television and movies. We hear it screamed into radios, or walkie talkies as mechanical failures, deadly storms, or murdered pilots combine for one last dramatic ending. And I guess, for this reason, we all have come to understand that the term 'mayday' is used in aviation, and nautical settings as a way to express the dire nature of the situation.

Though this seems to be one of those things to me that we see so frequently in film, and television that it becomes synonymous with fiction itself. It's one of those things that we see so much, that we are almost surprised to find out that it is actually used in real life. That it actually is standard protocol.

The term 'mayday' originates from the french word, "m'aider", literally translated to "come help me". It's usage began in the mid 1920's by British air traffic operators. They chose the word 'mayday' because of it's distinct sound, and because most flights at the time were simple trips between England and France.

The term is supposed to be said three consecutive times, as a way to make it clear in case of radio interference and background noise. It is also repeated as a way to distinguish between the initial call, and subsequent radio traffic referring to the call. This way, as a first responder, I can radio in about the 'mayday' call without everyone thinking that I am also in distress.

But, with all due respect, I know absolutely nothing about the world of first responders where this term is used.

And with even more respect to those men and women, this blog isn't about "mayday" calls in the middle of stormy seas, lightning filled nights, or any other such events. No this blog is, instead, about a different kind of 'mayday', the ones that we have all made, and received, ones that come in less dire form in the course of storms of a different kind, and nights with tears replacing lightning.

And it was one such night, a night not that long ago that got me thinking about this. A night where I happened to be the one to hear the call, in the form of a soft glow illuminating the dark bedroom ceiling above me. Where through blurry, sleepy eyes, I made out the text message that had reached my phone at such a late hour.

"Talk me down off this ledge, my friend..."

The simple words displayed across the screen, and upon reading the name of the sender, somehow my eyes no longer strained against the brightness.

And we talked.

We talked on the phone as I sat in the darkness of my living room, in one of those conversations where the care of what you say is infinitely less important the care in which you listen. One of those conversations that we have all had at some point in our lives. One where the pain of what we've been running away from finally catches up to us, trapping us in our own reality.

But while the specifics of our conversation are both inappropriate and irrelevant to this blog, what seems to be relevant is what I was left thinking about. What I was left thinking about, as my friend and I sat out on the ledge and talked.

We talked about what had brought them to this moment, and we talked about the hurt, the pain, and the anger that now consumed them. And after a while, either by what was said, or sheer exhaustion, we slipped back inside, off the ledge.

But when I woke up the next morning, the concern and conversation with my friend still fresh on my mind, I couldn't help but wonder if I had in fact done a disservice.

Cause, I guess, when I looked at my own moments out there on my own ledge. The moments where I felt the weight of my poor decisions, or harmful actions, I couldn't help but wonder if coming back down off the ledge, if coming back down to safety wasn't what had got me there in the first place.

Cause maybe it's this notion of being safe that gets me in trouble the most. Maybe it's the idea that I shouldn't be so bold, that leads to instances where I feel weak. Maybe it's the times that I hold back from going after what I want, the job, the girl, the dream, that I end up disappointed with what I'm left with. Maybe it's the chapters where I avoid shooting too high, that I end up falling the lowest. Maybe it's the points where I compromise, that I end up feeling compromised. Maybe it's the incidents where I settle for something below what I deserve that I end up no closer to what I want. Maybe it's the occasions when I let my dreams become "too risky", that I end up in ones that seem more like nightmares.

And that maybe the true value that I need from a friend is not to be talked down off a ledge, but talked into going back up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Guide to Online Dating

So naturally there is a moment after it has ended where you finally decide to get back out there. A moment after months of commitment has come to an end, that you realize it’s time to move on and try again. I guess, in the past, you would rely on friends to set you up with another, but in today’s society, it’s much more likely that you would turn to the internet as a way of finding the right match.

Loads of online sites that advertise themselves for their ability to pair you off with exactly what you are looking for. They will ask you all sorts of questions. About your recent history, what you are looking for, how fast or slow you want to move, and quite a bit about what you are looking to get out of this in the long term. 

And this is right where I am as well.

Cause you see, the last commitment that I had didn’t go so well. After a considerable amount of time trying to make it work, eventually it ended poorly, and I was left hurt and confused about what next to do.

I was left with a lot of questions.

Where had I gone wrong? Was I too trusting? Was it my fault? Will I ever find the right one? 

But the more I looked at it, the more answers I seemed to get. It became clear that I let things get too serious too quickly. I ignored the warning signs that seemed to pop up each night. I refused to listen to the advice of friends when they urged me to slow down. And towards the end I spent entirely too much time worrying about what to wear, as if that was going to fix what was already broken.

But above all the other aspects of this failed commitment, one aspect was more clear than others.

Which was that in many ways, I only have myself to blame for the way this exchange ended. 

Though, despite this failure, it seems to be time for me to get back on the proverbial horse. 

So here I go, back to the internet to find my next partner. One that fits me a little better. One that moves a little slower. And maybe even one that allows me the freedom to dabble with others. 

It's time for me to pick how I am going to spend the next three months.

It's time for me to pick my next training plan.

But in all seriousness, this is something that is trickier for me than it might sound. It's tricky because in order to this well, it requires a certain amount realistic assessment, something that has never been my strong suit. It takes a certain amount of being able to look at yourself, and tell exactly where you are. Not where you used to be, or where you want to be, but where you are now.

And, for me, that's not always an easy thing to do. It's not always easy for me to look at myself, in some kind of reflective manner, and not apply some kind of judgement to it, be it negative or positive. I'm too short. My nose is too big. I'm too smart for this class. I'm too dumb for this girl, etc.

But if I can guess, at what makes the best practice for selecting a training plan, it would be that ability to look at where you are as a runner and without judgement, being able to select what's best for you, as you are on that day.

So that's what I've done. I've tried to select a plan that fits the runner I am, not the runner I wish I was. 

So here goes day one...

Now what do I wear.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The View from the Center of the Universe

I remember being in 9th grade English class, taking some kind of vocabulary quiz. I recall sitting at my desk staring down with unease at the white page before me. Though, I'll be honest, that unease is rather easy to conjure up, for the simple fact that when it came to these particular vocab quizzes I was rarely, if ever prepared (unless you count when we finally realized our teacher was literally giving the same exact multiple choice tests that he had given my friends older brother some four years earlier.).

In contrast to these feelings of being unprepared, were the feelings of grand triumph that came from those instances where you were able to figure out the definition that you should have looked up and studied the night before. For some reason, it always made me feel like some kind of scholastic ninja, the same way you feel after you've killed a fly or wasp (cause be honest, nothing makes you feel quite like a badass the way that does.).

Anyway, this has been a grand, roundabout way to bring up two things. First, that I cheated on Mr. Fisk's vocabulary tests, (Trevor and Drew, you should do the same.), and secondly as a way to bring up the word "Narcissism".

Now most of us know that the word "Narcissism" denotes a level of love of oneself that comes beyond the bonds of what one would call healthy. It implies an arrogance, self-absorption, and a general egotistical view that is by no means a positive quality. But, like so many other words they make us learn in school, this one takes it's roots in Greek mythology, literally coming from the character, Narcissus.

The story of Narcissus is a rather simple one. He was a known for his beauty, and  being quite conceited about it. After a series of follies, he was eventually led to a pool, where he fell in love with his own reflection, refusing to leave, eventually leading to his death.

This is the genesis of the term "narcissism".

It was a couple years ago, when I found myself engaged in a conversation with another individual who had confessed that he was self-centered. My response, upon hearing this person's admission of self centered behavior was to look at him and say... "You call that self-centered?!?!". Then I proceeded to rattle off a list of things that made me more so than him. The ironic part, being that it seems to be the height of narcissism, or egotistical self-absorption to not only be it, but be competitive about it.

But the truth is, this is just a funny quip, up against something which is much more serious.

Cause, you see, while it is easy to sit here and make jokes about how I am self-centered, the truth is, that it's really not funny at all. For if I look back at all the various things I've done, the things I've done that I'm not so proud of, the things that still cause those twinges of guilt and shame, it's pretty clear to me that, in some way, self-centeredness was at it's core.

Cause of these various things, the lies, the cheating, the stealing, one thing was always true. Which was that, in some way, I felt that I was at the center of the universe. That I deserved it, that it was my turn, that it was only fair, that I needed it more, and that above all else, I was more important.

But I would like to say that a lot of that has changed. I would like to think that if you polled the people in my life today, that not all of them would list "rampant narcissism" at the top of my character traits.That I no longer feel like the center of the universe.

Which brings me to the story of this past weekend's twenty four hour race.

And a story from the center of the universe.

Cause, I don't know, it was just one of those nights, one that occurs only after the precise, and yet variant set of circumstances. A night where nothing seems to exist outside the small setting you surround yourself in. Where a small bubble, like one you see in science fiction, seems to shield you from the external noise and happenings in the world, put in place either by some unconscious choice, or some universal power. A moment where by selective memory, or celestial phenomenon, light seems to bounce a little slower around you.  When reality seems to take on a cinematic quality. When exhaustion and lack of sleep seem to displace you from time and context. Where jokes elicit laughter before they are even told.

They are these moments that we have all had, the late night childhood sleepovers, the Christmas Eves, the summer nights on a beach, the first time you stay up late with a girlfriend, or any of the ones that only you can remember.

They are the moments where you feel as though the moon, the sun, and stars seems to orbit around you.

But maybe this blog is rather unfair, cause it seems entirely possible it's a case of 'you had to be there'. And maybe even for those who weren't there, it isn't even relatable.

But I do know this.

That, on this night, I was there.

That I was there at the center of the universe, but unlike so many of those other times, you were there too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sometimes I think about Tarzan

Sometimes I think about Tarzan.

But I think I am getting ahead of myself.

This weekend is rather special one for me, and for a large number of my friends. For this Saturday and Sunday is the weekend of “20in24”, a twenty four hour race that is put on by Back on My Feet, a program that seeks to engage those experiencing homelessness here in Philadelphia through running. And, for those of you who read the blog often, you'll note, an organization that I have been lucky enough to volunteer with over the last two and half years.

The 20in24 is quite an event. Over the duration of it’s twenty four hours there are actually many different races going on at once. An ultra-marathon where the winner is the man or woman who logs the most miles over the course of the event. A series of relays , consisting of five person teams each running between one and four, 8.4 mile loops around Philadelphia’s famed boathouse row. 

This will be my third year doing the race. And like last year, I will be on a relay team with four other friends, who have signed up to each run two laps for a total of 16.8 miles. 

And if last year is any judgement, I should probably be focusing on those 16 miles  I'll run in the middle of a late July day. I should probably be focusing on attempting to improve on last years performance, not so much for a reduction in time, but a reduction in the number of times I stop to throw up. I should probably be focusing on the fact that I am slightly under trained for this event, having not run more then ten miles since April.

But instead, I'm not thinking about any of those.

Instead, I find myself thinking about Tarzan.

Because what makes this race so special isn't the relay, the ultra marathon, or any other element that makes a race. No, what makes this day so special, isn't the race itself, but the racers who run it. 

Cause, you see, I am incredibly lucky to have a rather large group of people that I can call my friends. And for this one weekend, this one short period of time, I am even more lucky to have so many of them in the same place. Which, for us, in our current state, our jobs, our girlfiends, our boyfriends, is a rather rare occurence. 

So as I sit here, I can't help but think about this group of people that I will be amongst in a few short days. I think about the nature of this group, the glaring differences, and the subtle similarities. I think of inside jokes, wrapped in inside jokes. I think about this family we seem to have created, by chance, by will, by luck, and by force of love.

And I think about the various moments we've been through.

The moments held in grand public display, and the quiet moments when no one else was around. The moments we love to talk about, and the moments we'd rather forget. Moments in hospital emergency rooms, on dance floors, and living room couches. Moments I've played large roles in, and moments I've merely been there to witness. 

But I guess it's in that last point that I find myself thinking the most. Thinking about the moments I've been lucky enough just to witness. 

Moments like a homeless man's cheeks straining awkwardly, as he seems to suppress a smile after finishing a race. A friend in a white singlet, bouncing nervously at the start of a marathon, and the final steps of another, as she finishes hers. Tears let out in the darkness of a bedroom, as she felt the pain of betting on the long shot, and the joy a few weeks later when it paid off. Text messages of new jobs, new boyfriends, new homes, and grad schools. 

Which brings me back, finally, to Tarzan.

But I am guessing that we already know the story. A child, left orphaned in Africa, is raised by gorillas without human contact for years, until another group is shipwrecked. And Tarzan meets Jane.

But that's not what I like about the story.

Cause, you see, I've always been a visual guy.

No, what I like about this character, Tarzan is the lasting image we all have, be it in books, film, or cartoon. The image of Tarzan, swinging through the jungle from vine to vine. 

And it's that visual that I've always liked, or at least the symbolism that exists within it.

Because, at a certain point, when Tarzan is on the vine swinging, there is a moment, a brief moment where he must let go of the old one, in order to jump to the new one. That, at some point, he must take the risk and let go of what's comfortable, to reach for something else, something new. And there is something to that.

Something to the idea, that only the way to move forward is to let go of what you've got already, to reach for something else. 

And, in some ways, despite all the differences in these moments I've witnessed, the different settings, the different tones, the different sentiments, I can't help but think that they, essentially, boil down to this one idea.

The idea of having enough faith to let go, and trust what comes next. 

And maybe I don't exactly know why that is. Why the various friends I'll be with this weekend, with all their intricacies, and differences, have been able to do this in each of these moments I've witnessed.

But if I had to guess why they've been able to take that leap of faith through the air...

I'd guess it would have a lot to do with the people on the ground below, waiting to catch them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Four Things We Can Learn from the 4th of July

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's one of those days that always seem to have a "feel" about it. There's just something that has stuck within me about this particular day. Memories of my Uncle Charlie, after having a few drinks, lighting the fuses to fireworks, pulling his hand away seemingly at the very last second before ignition, as my Uncle Bill, the firefighter, cringed in my grandmothers backyard. Memories of huddling on a light blue and grey patterned blanket as I fought against my own youthful stubbornness not to put on that sweatshirt my mother insisted I packed. And memories of the more traditional variety, of flip flops, face paint, and fingers of bbq sauce.

And despite the fact that this past 4th was devoid of most of these traditional entities, I have to say it was a pretty great day. That even though, fireworks and bbq were replaced by organic pasta salad, and a rather stimulating conversation about what you would name your pet Koala bear (Kurt, if you are wondering), it proved to be a solid holiday.

So in the spirit of keeping the fun going, here, for the heck of it, are the four things we as runner's can learn from the Fourth of July.

1. History is Subjective

So by the time you leave elementary school, each of us is well versed in the story of the Fourth of July. The tale of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the rest of the stately white whigged men who came together to sign the Declaration of Independence, and in doing so gave birth to this great country.

Images of Thomas Jefferson writing by candlelight through the night, leading to these men taking turn with ink and quill lending their names to the document the next morning. Scenes of the liberty bell ringing out at the top of Independence Hall as colonial citizens gathered to hear the news and celebrate.

This is the Fourth of the July.

Only... it's not.

You see, it all actuality the Colonies voted to separate from England on July 2nd.

And yes, while it's true that the Declaration was finished on July 4th, it wasn't made public until July 8th, and wasn't even signed until August 2nd, when 50 men gathered in one room to sign it (six would add their names in the coming months). Not to mention that the names of the signers were kept hidden for the majority of the war to protect them from retribution from the British forces.

John Adams, the man who initially called for the split from England and later our 2nd President, even wrote to his wife that surely, the 2nd of July would forever be a day that all future Americans would celebrate.

This to go hand in hand with the often repeated truth that these patriots that we hold so dear were also not the figures of perfection that were once described to us. The truth being that the majority of these men owned slaves. That several of them, including our most beloved such as Jefferson and Franklin, fathered children out of the confines of their marriage. And that many of them, later in their political holdings, would play major roles in one of the darker aspects of our history, our treatment of Native Americans.

But why bring this up?

Why throw mud on these important figures?

I bring it up, simply, to convey the point that history is made more by the present than the past. And I think as runners that is an incredibly important thing to keep in mind.

Cause naturally as runners we will go through peaks and valleys, figuratively speaking, where we feel stronger, and then weaker, and repeat. And it's worth reminding ourselves when we are down, when we are in those moments of increased struggle, moments where everything seems harder, and impossible to achieve, that it might not be as bad as we think. That we might just be having a bad day, bad week, or bad month.

And that's okay.

Cause tomorrow might be better, and the reality of where we've been and where we're going might look a lot different than it does right now.

2. It Helps to Have a Good Soundtrack.

Some things are just better with music.

And if you don't believe me, google a video of a 4th of July fireworks display as they play Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful". Watch that video and tell me you don't get goosebumps at some point.

And I don't know why, but there are just moments like this that are better with music. That there is something about adding a perfectly placed song at the right time and place, that can turn the ordinary into something so much more.

And think a lot of runners who run with music can relate to.

Whether it's when the snow first begins to fall, or those late summer nights when the sky turns purple as the sun slowly goes down, or just one of those places you had to be to experience, it's good to keep in mind what an absolute privilege it is to be able to do what we do.

3. Fireworks are Explosive

While this is hardly a startling revelation, I think it's interesting to note. I think it's interesting that those bright lights we see in the sky are, judging by the number of fire trucks that whizzed down my street last night, very violent, and dangerous entities.

I think it's worth pointing out that what we see up there, the beauty that can somehow captivate six and sixty year olds alike, doesn't happen in such a peaceful way.

I think it's worth pointing out, that for something to be as brilliant as fireworks, there needs be a considerable amount of risk to get there.

And I'll just leave it at that, cause I think this is one that I don't need to over explain.

4. United We Stand

So over the course of any Fourth of July, undoubtedly, you will hear a great deal about patriotism. You will hear people expressing their own definitions of patriotism, and there will be a considerable amount of time paid to those that have come before us.

And I think, to a degree, within this, may be the reason I love this holiday so much.

Cause, you see, I love this holiday because, unlike so many others, this one is truly for everyone. That while other holidays exist for the vast majority of this country, so many of them do exclude, or do not apply to a certain section. If you are Jewish on Christmas, single on Valentine's Day, or over the age of 22 on Halloween, in these cases, this particular holidays may leave you behind.

But that's what so great about the Fourth of July.

That it's for everyone.

That amongst the many bold, and brave ideas that our founding fathers put forth those many years ago, was that we no longer needed to be a nation that belonged to one person. That we didn't one man or one woman to take care of us. That we could each own a small part of this nation, and in doing so, would take care of each other.

Because when I think of the moments that I have felt the most inspired and proud of this country, they aren't necessarily the ones that get the most play on TV. They aren't moments of political triumph, or of a superior American athlete triumphing over a foreign opponent.

No, they aren't moments of triumph at all.

They are the moments when a family gets their Christmas presents without ever needing to pay a cent. They are moments when friends and neighbors stand amongst the shattered wooden wreckage where once were homes, and together begin to rebuild. They are moments, as you watch firefighters run into burning towers while all others run out.

They are the moments that we take care of each other, not because I look like you, I sound like you, I vote like you, or I think like you.

They are the moments we help each other because it's the right thing to do, because you are my neighbor, and because it is in this way that we attempt to fulfill the promise put forth in that Declaration, and later in our Constitution, that we hold certain truths to be self evident, as we continue to strive towards a more perfect union.

It's when we take care of each other.

And if that's not America the beautiful, then I don't know what is.

Happy Fourth of July, and what the heck, God Bless America.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"I want to look good naked..."

So, in the movie "American Beauty", there is a scene soon after Kevin Spacey's character, Lester Bernham, undergoes his "awakening, where he decides to get back in shape. He heads outside of his white picket fence in sweatpants and sweatshirt, and jogs along side his two gay neighbors who appear to jog every morning.

The two men look at Lester, and mention that they didn't know that he liked to run. Lester responds that he has just started, and was looking for some pointers into how to get back in shape, quickly. The one jogger then asks Lester if he just wants to lose weight, or if he wants to have increased strength and flexibility. Lester pauses for a moment and then says.

"I want to look good naked."

There's just something about this exchange that I like quite a bit. I think I like that it speaks to the innocence, or simplicity of when each of us began running. And a little bit about where we go from there, how our goals, our motives may evolve over time.

Because if you are like me, when you look back, you'll find that few of your original motivations remain long after you began. Cause I don't know many people who, in those initial first few runs, expressed a desire to qualify for the Boston Marathon, to run a six minute mile, or complete a 50k.

No, the goals that I hear are quite different, though not in a bad way. Goals that are more vague, like to get back into shape, to lose weight, or in the case of Lester Burnham, to look better naked.

So, what happens?

What happens the longer we run?

What causes our goals to change?

Cause I don't know about you, but when I started I wanted to get back into shape, to lose a little weight, and if I am super honest, look better naked (sorry Mom). But one would assume that the fact that I have different goals today would logically be a result of accomplishing, or crossing off the old ones. But I can't say that's exactly true.

Because I don't recall a moment where I thought that I was now "in shape", or that I had lost enough weight.

I don't remember a moment like that.

And yet, somewhere along the way, they changed. And while I could sit here and list the various goals that have come and gone, the ones that hang on walls, and ones that have fallen by the wayside, I'm not sure they really matter. Cause the more I think about it, it seems far less important to know what, specifically, our goals change to be, but how they change to be.

How there seems to be a pattern in the way in which they change.

And I've noticed this pattern, simply because I've watched it happen.

I've watched as friends who joined gyms to get in shape, kept working even after they worried their arm muscles looked too big. I've watched as friends who started running to keep with their girlfriend, branch out and do a triathlon. And I've watched as forwarded e-mail confirmations have trickle into my inbox, from people who once swore to me that they would never run a marathon.

Cause it seems to me, entirely possible, that there is something magical about what we do. Something magical about finding a passion in physical activity that awakens something within us.

That somewhere along the way, something we began to make you look at us, and see someone cool, someone fit, someone sexy, changed into something entirely different.

That somewhere this pattern forms, and our goals stopped being based on how you look at us, but rather how we look at ourselves.

Because, when it comes down to it, a runner always knows.

We always know what it took to finish that race, to run that fast, or that far. We always know the path that led here. We always know when we could have done better, and when we did our best.

We always know.

I believe that's how it works. I believe that because of this fact, because we always know what it took, no one has to validate any of it. That unlike so many other avenues of our lives, our jobs, our relationships, ones where we may seek your approval for that validation, somehow in running it makes little difference.

Because I've never been able to talk you into thinking you had a good race. I've never been able to lie to myself and block out what I knew to be true. That even if we are able to impress you with the distances or speeds we run, it rarely compares to the level by which we may impress ourselves.

And I believe, in that, lies the magic of what we do.

The magic of this process when running stops being anything else, stops being a weight loss plan, a family tradition, a pick-up line. When it becomes something else entirely.

The magic of when it becomes yours.