Thursday, September 12, 2013

This is what it feels like...

So, for the 11th time, I ran a marathon this past Sunday.

Which means, that for the 11th time, I limped my way through work this past Monday.

At one point, I would have told you that this was a badge of honor. Running 26.2 miles, then hobbling along in all your glory for the 48 hours that follow. And, I don't know, maybe that had an air of truth in it during the first few. But, somewhere along the way, that badge of honor lost it's shine. Where I used to be the conquering hero, being congratulated by my co-workers, now I'm the guy who is late to class, and being asked when I'll be able to start wearing shoes again, cause no one wants to look at my beaten up toes anymore.

But inevitably, as any marathoner will tell you, at some point in the week that follows your race, you'll be asked a series of questions. They'll ask how long the race was, where it was, etc... And then, there will usually be a question that goes like this...

"What did it feel like?"

And, if you are like me, you've never really been able to give a good answer. Cause, in my opinion, there really aren't words to describe just what it feels like to both run, and complete the 26.2 miles.

However, since I can't tell you, I've decided to try the next best thing... to show you... this is what it feels like...






When the gun goes off... it gets a little hectic.


Dance it up, Lil Drake, dance it up.







"How about I f@cking kill you?!?!"













Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Philadelphia; A Runner's Confession

There comes a time in every man's life when he must face the music. When he can no longer continue to live with the weight of what he has done. When he comes to a crossroads, and must decide where to go next.

It is at such a crossroads, that I find myself.

So here I stand, glancing back at the road I have taken. A road marred by the sins of my past, betrayal, pride, lies, the list goes on. And so it has come to pass that the weight of such crimes has become too great, too much for me to step forward.

At such a time, there is but one thing to do.


So here, in no particular order, is my confession.

My running confession.

Forgive me Father (Bob), for I have sinned.

1.) That time I stopped at the yellow light, and made a face as though I was mad that I had to stop... that was lie. I wasn't mad... I wasn't mad at all. The truth is that I saw it was green half a block before hand, and slowed down to make sure I wouldn't catch the green light.

2.) Those times I looked down at my watch as though I were checking my pace... I don't know why I did that, I wasn't even timing myself, I just do it cause I think it makes me look legit.

3.) I've never admitted this out loud to another runner... but I'm thinking about doing a triathlon.

4.) Sometimes... Sometimes I listen to music when I run... and sometimes it's Jay-Z... okay... Beyonce'... okay... Glee... okay... One Direction... happy now?

5.) It's possible that I don't wash my running shorts EVERY time after I run...

6.) That time I almost ran into someone, and said I was sorry... I wasn't sorry. I was the exact opposite of sorry... dude needs to stop texting and watch where he is walking.

7.) When you asked me "how long that marathon was?" and I said "26.2". And then you asked me "how long that other marathon was?" and I said "26.2". And then you said "Duh, I'm a dumb, idiot" and I said "No problem", what I really wanted to say was "Correct, you are a dumb, idiot".

8.) I don't want to do a "Zombie Run" if I wanted to run away from creepy, pale, odd looking people, I'd run in Northern Liberties.

9.) On rare occasions I give the middle finger and use profanity towards ignorant drivers.

10.) On occasion I lie about how ofter I give the middle and use profanity towards ignorant drivers.

11.) Those times I clear my throat as I run by you... I didn't need to clear my throat, I was just making sure you knew how I felt about you and your girlfriend's decision to take up THE ENTIRE sidewalk.

12.) Half the socks I wear do not belong to me... and quite frankly, I'm not even sure where they came from, or how I got them.

13.) Nothing shows my laziness like my laziness to make a new playlist.

14.) When I say "I'm sorry, I can't. I have a lot of work to do.". What I am really saying is "I'm sorry, what you're suggesting is stupid, and I'd rather go run in 90 degree heat.".

15.) When I get home from a run, I eat... a lot... yeah... a lot.

16.) Blood doping sounds interesting.

17.) Stretching is stupid.

18.) Sometimes when I spit I aim for a sewer grate, and I sometimes I...

19.) When that biker yelled "On your Left"... what I wanted to reply was "How bout you get your fat ass off that bike and we'll see who is faster. Until then Lance Armstrong, learn how to steer your bike out of people's way".

20.) I don't care, that I don't care.

And for that... I am sorry...

Well... kinda...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Weather, Principals, and Kangaroos

So a few years ago I had this dream, a nightmare really.

I dreamt that I was in the apartment that my brother and I were sharing at the time. It was the middle of the night, but I knew it wasn't just the two of us inside. There was an intruder. An unwelcome guest who wished us harm. A dangerous assassin who's sights were squarely set on me. An enemy hell bent on destroying me.

And that's when I saw him.

That's when I saw the kangaroo.

And just like that he sprung to life, hopping furiously towards my bedroom door. I threw it shut just as he arrived, slamming my weight into the door, pushing back kick after kick from the wretched marsupial, each blow stronger than the one before. And just as his last kick knocked the door off the hinges... silence.

After a few seconds I peered out into the darkness, spotting the furry bastard bouncing around the kitchen. Then, in an instant, I noticed my brother sleeping soundly, his bedroom door wide open. I surveyed the situation quickly, his vulnerable state, a miracle that the foul beast hadn't noticed my brother the sitting duck.

My first thought is that I knew what I must do. I must leave the safety of my room, risk the open hallway, and secure his door.

And then, my second thought...

"Fuck him"

And with that, I shut the door.

I woke up the next morning with two lingering feelings...

The first being, no more swedish fish before bed.

And the second being this odd feeling of guilt at the way subconscious so quickly abandoned my brother in the face of this Australian assassin.

Which brings me to what I've been thinking about over this past weekend, and the point of this blog.

Cause the more I think about it, the more it seems to be true.

That it's not that from a lack of principles that we get ourselves in trouble, but rather from a lack of using the principles that we already have that gets us in trouble.

But I guess I should explain.

You see, this weekend didn't exactly go as many of us had planned. A Saturday morning that was supposed to be filled with hydration, and pre-race meals turned into a lazy morning of snooze buttons and cold pizza. An afternoon run, once destined to be a 17 mile tempo race, instead became a 17 second mental debate that ended with "Eh, I'll run tomorrow".

Such was the case of the race that wasn't.

As threatening thunderstorms and record heat indexes caused the City of Philadelphia, in consultation with their Public Health Board, to conclude that this year's 20in24 race could not go on due to safety concerns. And there it was, removed from the hands of the men and women of Back on My Feet who had spent a years worth of time, energy and so much more into planning this race. And just like that, the race was cancelled.

Thus beginning our lesson in disappointment, or rather, our lesson in dealing with disappointment.

And while the cancellation of a race is hardly near the top of a list of tragic occurrences, it did get me thinking about how I, and I guess the rest of us, face such disappointments, or bumps in the road, be them loss, crisis, or even kangaroos. It got me thinking about the ways in which practicing what we preach can fly out the window at the first sign of resistance.

And, somehow this seemed like a relevant topic to discuss, as disappointment of a race that was cancelled spilled over into the realm of social media. As people took to their keyboards, typing posts ranging from understanding and gratitude for a difficult decision, to out right anger and blame. Some posted about returning to run next year, while others resolved to congregate and run as planned.

And somewhere in this dizzying pinball exchange of facebook posts (posts I should know by now are best avoided) about the spirit of a runner, as one that can never be stopped by weather or anything else. I couldn't help but wonder if in this bravado we had somehow lost sight of what so many of us believe running is, and what it can be.

I guess I'd like to think that running isn't merely about risking, or fighting, but rather about something positive, and more over, something that is greater than just one person. I'd like to think that the gifts one gets from running, are gifts that are meant to be shared for a collective good. I'd like to think that races are just as much about the person who crosses the finish line last, as much as the person who crosses first.

And its for those reasons that my better angels tell me that the decision to cancel the race was the right one.

So with that, I'll choose to end this blog, the same way that Back on My Feet ends each of their morning runs, with a prayer who's words I too often say, instead of hear.

"God, grant me the serenity,
 to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference"

And to say "thank you" to Back on My Feet's staff, in the face of resistance, for their care, efforts, and above all, their wisdom to know the difference. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Brother Can You Spare a Dime

I’ve never been great with money.

And I don’t mean that in the conventional sense (cents?) of spending too much or making bad investments. I mean that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been bad with money.

I was the kid in 3rd grade losing points on a quiz cause I forgot to include the “$” in front of the answer. The kid who’d blow his whole allowance on “Sour Cry Babies”, forgetting that eating any more than four leaves your mouth painfully unable to eat the remaining twenty. And the kid whose last move in Monopoly was not with the die, but rather with a middle finger and vow to “never play this f$%@ing game ever again”.

So it should be no surprise that, in light of these examples, I’m not very good at talking about money. And even worse than talking about money, I’m infinitely worse at asking for money. But unfortunately in this case, it cannot be avoided.

So here goes my best attempt to talk about money, without talking about money.

To get the basics out of the way, in three weeks four of my friends and I will be competing in a five person relay event. Each of us will take a turn running 16.8 miles, as a team covering a combined distance of 84 miles. The race is called the 20in24, and it is both organized and benefits Back on My Feet Philadelphia, a program that seeks to engage those experiencing homelessness through running. A program I’ve been lucky enough to have been a part of for the last three and a half years.

Which is why, before I ask you for money, I want to talk to you a little bit about where that money goes, though not exactly in the way you might imagine.

Cause I feel like this is the part where the salesman begins to breakdown dollars and cents. This is where he or she would start to tell you that X amount of money goes directly to supply Y for the program. And I could do that. I could tell that you  $50 is enough to buy one member winter running gear, a necessary component when you run at 5:30am in January and February. I could tell you that $1,800 is enough to put a member through the entire program, their shoes, their grant money, and everything else that falls in between. 

I could do all of that, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t begin to tell the whole story of what these donations really buy.

Cause the whole story is a story that isn’t so easy to tell. It’s a story that doesn’t always add up.

Cause, from my experience, when it comes to Back on My Feet Philadelphia, the X we give very rarely equals the Y. Somehow, the monetary value of what we spend very rarely equals the value once it is given.

A value that’s much harder to define.

Cause $100 dollars can buy a couch, but it also buys a place to invite your friends to sit. Ten dollars can buy a shirt, but it also buys the name of a team that sits upon your chest. Two dollars can buy a bus ride, but it also buys a trip away from the front steps of a shelter. And five dollars can buy a “50 Mile Medal”, but it also buys something to wear around your neck.

And these values are much harder to define.

Cause now we’re not talking about money.

We’re talking about the dignity that comes with having a place to sit down, a place that’s yours and no one elses, a place where you decide who is welcome, and a place where you can sit with the freedom of what to do next.

We’re talking about the sense of belonging that comes from being on a team. A name on your chest that says you are a part of something bigger, that you are not alone. That you are a member of a family. 

We’re talking about the freedom of a bus ride, a ride that can take you anywhere you want to go. A ride that means you are no longer bound to a shelter, or city blocks that held you back before. A ride that cuts the chains that tethered you to old ideas of where you were destined to stay. 

And we’re talking about the pride that comes with being able to wear your accomplishments around your neck. To being able to walk around with your head held high, and saying this is me, and this is what I’ve done. 

We’re talking about a man named Steve, who received his “50 Mile Medal” in March, and has worn it beneath his coat, around his neck for every single run since.

Now you tell me, you tell Steve was that $5 dollar medal is really worth.

So here is where I ask for money… sortive.

Because, in truth, I can’t ask for money to buy these gifts. I can’t ask you to donate, because these gifts, the pride, the freedom, the belonging, and the dignity, are not things that can be purchased, or even given. They are things that these men and women must make for themselves, an undertaking that, if you know anything about homelessness, is by no means guaranteed. 

So instead of asking only for your money, I’m asking also for your faith.

I’m asking you to donate your money, not simply for the reality of what it will buy, but for the hopes of what it may become. I’m asking you to donate because you believe, not only in the potential of these men and women, but because you believe that such longshots are worth believing in. 

And I’m asking you to donate, to teach someone else the lesson Back on My Feet Philadelphia has taught me, that five dollars doesn’t seem like much when it’s folded up in your hand. But when it’s a medal, attached to ribbon around a man’s neck… five dollars is enough to change the world. 

Thank you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Storms

I guess it's something we all have our way of deciding.

For some, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer. For others they wait until the calendar to make it official. And still others hold out for that first 90 degree day to announce the arrival of summer.

Mine is a little different, and multifaceted.

For me, summer hasn't begun until certain requirements have occurred.

The first of which, is that initial time you stop at a red light, only to find that somehow the air around you is hotter when you're standing still than when you are actually running. The second step is the first time your iPod begins malfunctions due to sweat.

And third, you may only be able to appreciate if you are a Colameco. But long story short, it involves my father, Channel 6's weather report, a lot of shirt flapping, and a long tirade, heavy on the expletives.

But if you ask me, one of the underrated qualities of summer are it's fast moving storms. Storms that, on any night, can turn a miserably, humid run into a refreshing downpour. Then just as quickly turn said refreshing downpour into a mad dash home to avoid thunder, and the pain of little pellets of hail being shot at you like BB gun.

So in honor of these storms, here are a series of quick moving storms, or thoughts currently making their way through the jet stream of my mind.

- I swear the people who design dress shirts for men, purposefully add as many little sizing stickers as they can, hoping to make you look like an asshole when you wear it for the first time and forget to take one off... Good God, why do I need 16 stickers telling me it's a 14 1/2 inch neckline.

- I don't know why, but I feel more guilty when I litter than when I do anything else.

- Commitment implies sacrifice... it also implies the ends are worth it.

- Lady- "Can you please have one of the lifeguards skim the pool?!?! There are leaves everywhere, and I just know my son is going to put one in his mouth. I have to ask for this every year..."
What I said- "Yes, I'll get one now."
What I should have said- "Really, every year? Here's an idea... why don't you teach your kid to stop eating leaves!"

- What gets you in the door is far less important than what keeps you there.

- I wish I was half as good at planning today, as I am planning for tomorrow.

- Is there any distance that feels longer than 12 feet from your bed to the sink when you need a drink in the middle of the night.

- A running expert recently told me to drink coconut water... I told him he wasn't an expert.

- If you don't know what color Ms. Lippy's car is... I'm not sure if I can be your friend.

- No, seriously... Grey's Anatomy is still on TV?

- Student- I don't know how to do it.
Me- You have to use the factorial button.
Student- Why?
Me- Cause that's how you find the right answer.
Student- You gotta risk it, to get the biscuit.

- Knowing when not to give advice is sometimes just as important as knowing what advice to give.

- I think I'd be friends with me... took a couple years to be able to say that.

- Nothing is as universally adhered to as the rules of a marathon bathroom line.

- Remember what it felt like to write your first check... yeah... you're old.

- The benefit of being able to listen, is the gift of being able to relate.

- Wiffle ball is fun, I don't care how old you are.

- Knowing the song and knowing the words are two different things.

- I like a good e-mail chain.

- Is there anything more irritating than when your phone takes the correctly spelled word you wanted and autocorrects it to a completely different word?.... Of course there are things that are more irritating, but that shit is getting old!

- Cantaloupe is to fruit salad as my humor is to family dinners... overpowering and in poor taste.

- I haven't said sorry very much lately... not sure if thats a good or a bad thing.

- It seems to me that the promises I make to myself are the ones I break the easiest... but they also seem to become the most rewarding.


- This weekend I learned that even on the saddest of days, that there's nothing more beautiful than people coming together... even if it is to say goodbye.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lessons From the Back of the Pack

It's funny the things that stick with us.

To think of all the bits of advice and insight that pass through us, who's to say why some stay with us and some don't.

I had this soccer coach when I was younger. He was an interesting man to say the least, and to this day one that I'm not sure I'll ever completely understand. He was a walking conundrum. A man just as likely to inspire you as he was to thoroughly offend you. A complete social idiot, who somehow knew more than most about what made the people around him tick. A man who's unquestionable success was only ever one sentence away from becoming a failure.

A man who had a great influence on who I am today, providing as many lessons on what not to do, as what to do.

But it was in those autumn days when I served as his unofficial Assistant Coach that he taught me the most. And one afternoon in particular that brings me to the point of this blog.

It was at the end of a long day at practice, very early in the season. He turned to me, in one of his rare introspective moments. One of those odd occasions where I wasn't merely "the guy who set up the cones", where I wasn't simply the means to his end, but rather as the kid who one day might grow up to take care of others.

"You wanna know how to find the leader?"

He stood there for a second, as his team's thundering feet returned from the latest round of sprints he had just sent them on. It was a custom at the end of practice for the team to line up on the midfield line, then on his whistle, they would sprint down and behind the back of the goal, then return to the midfield line. He would give them a time that each of them had to be back by. He's start with time like "26" seconds, then slowly drop the time as he went. If someone came in after 26 seconds, the whole team would have to repeat that sprint, before moving down to the final time.

"Okay! This one has to be under 23!"

He blew his whistle, and they sprinted away leaving us alone once again.

"You do these sprints with them. Wait until they are gassed, then ask them to do one more. Only this time, ask them to do it in a time just fast enough that they think you are crazy for asking."

The kids return again, hands on their heads, gasping for air. A few seconds go by, as the sound of burning lungs sets the mood.

"Okay! Last one. Everyone has to finish under 19"

An audible groan of incredulity emanates through out the group. Their faces drop in a wash of surprise and outrage. A few choice words are muttered under a few breaths as they place their toes back on the line.

He blows the whistle again.

"Then you watch."

We stand there watching the collection of young men flying towards the goal.

"Your leader's not the guys up front."

I look out at the three boys in the lead, separated from the pack by several yards. The faces of the boys that top the list of goals scored, who's name appear at the beginning of every starting line-up.

"It's not the slow kid who's busting his ass from the back, pushing his way to the middle."

I note the chubby Senior, usually one of the last to finish, who is uncharacteristically running amidst the majority of the team.

"It's the kid in the back who should be winning. The kid who can run much faster than he is. The kid who slows down to run along side the slowest guy, trying to push him to run a little faster to make the time."

And there he was. The kid who barely looked out of breath finishing right along side the boy who looked close to passing out.

"Just made it!"

The team lets out a loud sigh of relief.

And I don't exactly know why, but I find myself thinking of this often. This idea of leadership, and what it looks like, compared to what it is.

And I think about this, wondering on any given day, which of these boys I am. The ones out in front trying to lead by example. The boy desperately trying to make up ground, pushing himself beyond his capabilities. Or the guy in the back, side by side with the ones who need the most help.

But, I think the old, jackass was right. Cause if I had to choose which I'd like to be, it would the guy in the back.

Cause the older I get, the more I find this principal to be true, that the only way to help someone is to meet them where they are. That as much as you would like them to rise to your level, to your standards, or expectations, it doesn't work that way. That a true leader doesn't call down to you from the top of the hole to get you out, but jumps down into it with you.

And I sit here writing this, looking back the week that was, for all it's craziness and chaos. I can't help but laugh a bit, thinking of my crazy coach, and encouraged that for this moment in time, there seem to be a lot of holes worth jumping into.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Man in the Red Bathing Suit Part Two (Two Year Anniversary)

It felt strange to recognize him.

This twinge of guilt flashed when I saw him, though I couldn't tell in that instance why. I guess looking back on it, it was due in part that this man was, and is still, a stranger to me. Or maybe its because it just felt wrong to recognize someone purely from their most glaring physical attribute, or in this case, their handicap.

But there he was.

This man that I had written about two years ago in one of my first blog entries on this site.

The man in the red bathing suit.

You see, every May for the last thirty some years the High School where I work hosts a Special Olympic Swim Meet. They invite many of the local high schools, and specialty facilities to attend and compete.

This was my third year at the event, watching from the balcony, and cheering on the many participants that took to the water. I've witnessed some truly great moments. Down to the wire finishes, proud parents snapping pictures, and countless smiles. More smiles than you could possibly count, the ones that echo off walls, filling the empty space between each of us, making it impossible to tell where your smile ends, and theirs begin.

And yet, for all the races I've seen over these three swim meets, the race that sits atop them all is the one with the man in the red bathing suit.

It was my first year at the event. The meet seemed to be drawing to a close, all of our students had finished their races, when the announcer called out the next heat. That's when I first noticed him. A tall, slender, African American man stood up, shedding the towel that had been wrapped around his waist. He walked gingerly, being led with cautious eye by a helper of some kind. His steps were uneven, as though one leg were longer than the other. His right arm, bent at the elbow, was contorted and held rigidly against his chest.

When the gun went off, he thrust himself forward in the water. His arms and legs worked in spastic fury, propelling him away from the wall. I recall the way my eyes felt deceived by the fast pace of his stroke, compared to how slowly it translated in the water, as though physics was playing some kind of cruel trick on the man.

But he kept going, kept plugging along until he just a few meters from the wall.

And then he stood up.

And your heart sank.

With just a few short feet to go, he stood up. And the longer he stood there, the more your heart broke for the man who came so close. But just as I began to wonder why he didn't just take the few steps forward to touch the wall, something strange happened.

He dove back down into the water.

And he finished the race.

It's something I'll never forget.

The way he stood there, the look in his eyes. The way he dove back into the water to swim to finish, when the easier way was just a step in front of him, an easier way that no one would have begrudged him.

And the lesson, that despite all else, when you reach the end, it matters how you finish.

But, I'm afraid, I'd be lying to you if I ended the story there. I'm afraid I'd be guilty of painting a sunny portrait, and that just doesn't feel right.

Cause, you see, I wanted to write this story last year. I wanted to write this update after last year's meet. To tell you all about the man in the red bathing suit who once again looked these long odds in the face and dove in anyway.

But I couldn't.

I couldn't bring myself to write about last year. How he climbed down the ladder, only to thrash about in a panic. I couldn't bring myself to write about how he needed to be pulled out by the helpers standing close by.

It hardly seemed like a fitting end to the story.

But as it turned out, the man who once tricked me into assuming he was finished, had yet another surprise in store for me.

For there he was this year, standing up after it appeared the final race had been completed, leaving the towel once again on the bench behind him. It seemed he was walking even slower, with a light blue floatation belt wrapped tightly around his waist. This time being helped over to the side of the pool, instead of the far end. He eased down, feet touching the bottom of the shallow end of the water.

The announcer came over the PA system, alerting the crowd that there was one last race to come, one last racer. The hushed whisper of the starter's call, allowed him to get set, and then, the horn.

And just like that, the man in the red bathing suit made his way across the shallow width of the pool, one painfully, jerky stroke after another until he reached the end.

And this seemed like a relevant topic, as I sit here trying to mark the second anniversary of this blog.

It's relevance coming to us in the form of a lesson.

That as time passes, whether over two years or two decades, you'll find yourself changed, sometimes for the worse, sometimes for better, but in the races we run, in the trials we face, the manner in which we finish them still matters.

Thank you to all who read this blog. To the runners, the non-runners, the moms, the dads. Thanks to the friends, the co-workers. To the people who I've never heard of, and to the people who've never heard of me.

And tonight especially, thanks to the man in the red bathing suit, who taught me that even though the race may change, how we run it never has to.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Statues on Broad Street

It's funny, before I sat down to write this, I hadn't realized that the topic of statues is one that I've written about frequently. I'm not entirely sure why, but it has served to be a recurring theme on this blog.

Statues, both real and imagined.

The entry I wrote last winter about the Rocky statue, a sculpture built to honor a heroic Philadelphian underdog who never existed. And the outrage I felt towards a City that turns a movie character into a tourist attraction, and turns it's back on the real underdogs who live in it.  These men, women, and way too many children who don't fight Heavyweight Champions, Russians, or Mr. T, but fight a gross and unjust poverty.

Or the entry about the statues I run by. The statues that line the route of my regular six mile loop. The statues that talk, eat, and sleep. These men and women, who sleep on steam vents, and in doorways. These real men and women, who are alive, but like statues, never seem to move.

The irony of all of this is that, despite this recurring theme of statues, I'm not exactly what you'd call an "art person".

With the exception of spelling tests, nothing has caused me to "fake it" more than discussing or viewing the many forms of art. I mean, don't get me wrong, I do have an appreciation for sculpture, paintings, etc., but it's really more of an appreciation for others appreciation.

But while I can't say I'm a huge fan of art work, I am a sucker for a good story... even if it is a story about art.

Which brings me to the statue of David.

The statue of David, I would have to imagine, would rank as one of the world's most recognizable sculptures. It's white, marble frame is known the world over for it's example of fine art and craftsmanship. It's likeness, has been shown and reproduced, so that even if you've never witnessed it first hand, you can still close your eyes and picture it.

And despite it's beauty, whether it's fact or legend... I have to say, I like the story the better.

In 1464 the City of Florence commissioned the construction of a statue of David (Yes, that David, as in the one who slayed Goliath). This statue was to go along side a series of other Biblical figures set to line the rooftops of the Florence Cathedral.

The counsel sought the advice of the legendary Donatello, as to who should be selected to carve the sculpture. As the story goes, Donatello responded instantly, stating that there was only one man for the job.

Agostino di Duccio.

That's right, not only was Michaelangelo not the first choice to begin sculpting the statue, but at the time of it's commission, he was not even born... keep reading.

Work did not exactly move quickly on David. The counsel had purchased a rather cheap block of marble from a nearby town, and had it transported to Florence. Upon it's arrival Agostino remarked that such cheap material could never produce a great sculpture. He took his time getting started, and after the death of Donatello, abruptly left the project, having only begun to craft the legs. Another artist was chosen to replace him, but no more progress was made on David.

For 25 years this block of uncarved marble lay dorment. For 25 years, it laid on it's side, exposed to the elements as it lay in wait in the open air of the Cathedral's courtyard. For 25 years it lay forgotten, with only a whisper of a name to hold it's place in this world.

And there it stayed, until a new group of counsel members became to determined to finish the work. They ordered the block of marble raised to it's feet, and sought to hire an artist who could bring it to life.

Michaelangelo was 26 when he was hired, years younger than many of the other candidates vying to earn the commission. And on the morning of September 13th, 1501, Michaelangelo began sculpting the statue of David.

And a little over two years later, it was completed.

Some two years later, this once discarded block of cheap marble became the most famous statue in the world. This forgotten block of marble, left abandoned without care became the one of the most celebrated works on earth.

And I think about this.

This weekend, for those who don't know, is Philadelphia's Broad Street Run, a ten mile race down the center of the City. It will be the fourth time I'll line up to pace a teammate of mine from Back on My Feet Philadelphia. And while I would love to tell you about the individual with whom I'll be running, respect for his wishes to remain anonymous will preclude me from doing so. But that won't stop me from telling you about what he is not, and a little about what I believe he is.

The man I'll be running with doesn't look a whole lot like David. He's not chiseled from marble. His arms and chest bear little resemblance to David's defined muscles. His legs lack the steadfast stance, that hold the Biblical hero up in the face of Goliath sized odds.

No, at first glance, the man I'll be running with looks less like David, and rather more like that weathered block of marble.

But looks can be deceiving.

Cause you see, there's one last piece to this story of the David statue. Because, as the legend goes, Michaelangelo, upon completion, was asking how he was able to create such a beautiful statue.

His answer was surprising.

When asked how he created David, he responded by saying he didn't.

He said he didn't create David from the block of marble. He simply removed the marble around the David that already existed inside of it. 

"I saw an angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free"

And I think about this.

I think about what this says about all of us.

That no matter how weathered our outsides. No matter the quality of our exterior. No matter how long we've been left to waste away.

No matter how broken, neglected, or injured our persons may be, that there is something inside of us, an angel that has never been touched by these external evils. That no matter how deeply it's been covered over, deep down, it's there. And that in each of us there exists an inherent beauty that is merely waiting to be released.

And though the man I'll line up along side on Sunday may display this weathered exterior, the truth is that maybe I do too, maybe we all do. And that maybe the true beauty of Back on My Feet is this chance we give each other to shed another layer of that exterior to get closer to that angel in each of us.

This blog is dedicated to the many Michaelangelos in my life, who never cease to see the angels in all of us.

Happy Broad Street!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dear Boston

Maybe it’s the defiance of a marathoner.

That manifestation of beating the odds to run 26.2 miles that fosters this desire to take what reality has given you, and turn it into what you choose. 

A task that seems easier said than done, after a race in which the reality of things greater than marathons seemed to win the day. A day with a finish line shrouded in smoke, bags and medals left in boxes, and more that I can't seem to bring myself to type.

It's a day none of us will forget, those of us who were there, and those who watched from afar.

And yet, there's that defiance, this need to say something, to find that which has not been said, to manipulate this present in order to dull the pain of the past. But I don't know what to say, so I find myself listening instead. Riding the roller coaster loop of news coverage, of repetition and the promise of breaking news. Reading Tweets and Facebook posts, press releases and official statements.

These many words, and stories blending together in my head, creating these common themes that run together. Themes of people who want desperately to turn the page, through action. This desire to create something to focus our communal energies. And this lingering thought, as I walk through my day, that no matter how old you are, you're a kid until you have kids, and then you're a parent. 

But though all them, through all these quotes, and invitations to honorary runs, and vigils, I hear in each this defiance. This resilience that seems to be at the heart of what we all default to, and one that I wonder if unto itself, really serves us. Cause as I see it, I keep coming back to the same thought.

That the opposite of hatred and violence, isn't merely resilience for the sake of defiance, it's the resilience for the sake of love. 

And what better way to describe your marathon.

Your City's 26.2 mile love letter, written one word at a time by each of the smiling, cheering faces passed along the course. A love letter read aloud word by word to each and every runner who runs by. A love letter I've been lucky enough to hear on three separate occasions, in 2010, 2012, and this past Monday.

I heard it in the never ending stream of anonymous high fives protruding from your abundant crowds. In the screams, willing me to pick back into a jog, and fight further against the 89 degree heat of 2012, as though they had been there training with me for the last three months. And in the way young boys and girls stand on curbs, from Hopkinton, to the Boylston, holding out small plastic cups of water to the strangers that run by.

And maybe that's what I've wanted to say to you this whole time. 

That maybe the answer to our uncertain desire to stand up and defy this violence, is the old running adage, "that sometimes the answer is not to speed up, but to slow down". That maybe the best response to such hatred, is not to do something new to stand up to it, but to acknowledge that you already have. That you as a City, and a marathon, need not prove anything in the days, and years to come to show that you are stronger than any act of terror, but simply to point back at what you have done to this point. To say, not that the marathon will be bigger than this tragedy, but that it already is.

That the true beauty of the Boston Marathon, is not in it's historical past, it's present elite competition, but rather in the kindness that it treats each and everyone who steps upon it. The spirit that it passes to complete strangers, without condition or pretense.

And though it hardly lessens the sadness of the events of Monday, it seems worth noting that the cowardly violence directed at hundreds, pales in comparison to the kindness, and love given to thousands. That of those opening their homes to runners stranded on the course, to the lines of people waiting to donate blood, and maybe most of all, to those who ran towards the smoke, not knowing what lay inside it.

So maybe this letter is more of a "Thank you" than anything else, a thank you with a promise attached to it.

A promise to tell those who were not there, that the real story was not the twelve seconds between explosions, but the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days that followed. A promise to stand up with strangers, to echo the kindness, the goodness, and the love that lives in your marathon.
A promise to never forget 2013, and to be there again in 2014.
Daniel Colameco
Bib #1562