Why I Run #1

I ran down Silverado, as I normally do every other morning, working on a routine 40-minute loop.  Although a mess of a road to navigate due to sidewalks that alternate sides, I liked running down that street because it was off the beaten path.  Quiet and peaceful, and not terribly overrun with office commuters and parents dropping off kids at school.

I approached my usual left-hand turn on Brookstone Dr., and the calm was shattered by the wail of police sirens in the distance.  As I made the turn, the police car was right next to me, also turning into the neighborhood.  It was so loud that I had to stop running, cover my ears, and turn away, it was so uncomfortable.  For a fleeting moment, I wondered, “Are they here for me?  Did I do something wrong?”

Mercifully, the officer turned off his siren. I uncovered my ears, looked ahead once more, and continued my loop.  However, just a few hundred feet ahead of me was one of the saddest sights I’ve ever encountered: in the middle of the intersection was a 10-year-old boy, crumpled and motionless, circled by hysterical adults.  The policemen were already out of their car, attending to the boy and directing the rubberneckers to move along.  More sirens trailed in the distance, likely the fire department and EMS response.

It took a moment for the scene to truly register.  My running subconsciously slowed, until I was stopped and completely unaware I had done so.  It finally dawned on me that this was a real boy, and then the crying started.  It was a painful cry — not only because of this poor child’s circumstances, but because of my own son: I couldn’t stop thinking about Zachary and how I wanted to run straight to his school, hug him, and never ever let him go.

After several minutes of fighting through my sadness, I went ahead with my run.  There wasn’t anything I could do, considering there were tons of people already on the scene.  But mostly, I just couldn’t bear to look — the longer I was there, the more I wanted to vomit, the more I wanted to find the driver, shake them by the shoulders, and scream, “What the fuck were you thinking?!”

I kept running, and for twenty minutes I couldn’t stop crying.  Weeks of accumulated stress, illness, and lack of regular exercise combined to reach an internal boiling point, which thanks to the fuel provided by that poor boy’s accident.  And I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone.  Then a Twitter follower inquire about it, and the floodgates of emotion opened.

I had to get it out, and I’m glad I did, as I’m your  typical dude who bottles up his feelings until they explode, and this wasn’t something worth bottling up.  I think it was guilt: about being powerless to help, and at having left a scene where my only contribution would have been to stare.

But believe it or not, it was just a regular bout of parental guilt.  I felt that if my own son were to have gotten hurt like that, even if it was not my fault in any fashion, I’d still never be able to forgive myself.

So what does this have to do with running, besides the coincidence I witnessed this while in the act?

After the DRC Half in November, which turned out to be a “failure” of a race for me (I got hurt ⅔ of the way through), I limped home in the lowest of moods.  This was the third major race in a row where something completely derailed me, and my always-supportive wife was now newly-frustrated.  Jenn wanted to know, “If you keep having miserable races, then why do you run?”

A great question.  And one I wasn’t able to answer.

For the next three months, I’ve pondered that question on each and every run.  I’ve come close, but it wasn’t until after seeing that poor child that I have answer for her.

I run because I want to live a long and healthy life.

And I want that long and healthy life, so I can witness every moment of the miracles that are my wife’s and son’s lives.