There's a great speech in the movie "Any Given Sunday" (starring the legendary Al Pacino) that gets me fired up every time I hear it (listen to it by clicking here or on the imbed below, or, if you want to cut to the chase, speed up to 1:35 of the clip). Sometimes I listen to the speech before a race. One part of what Pacino's character says really goes to the heart of how I--as a guy who may not have much running talent but who works his ass off and tries to put it on the line at my races--view running, racing and life.
It goes like this:
"You know, when you get old in life things get taken from you. I mean that's...part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.
"The inches we need are everywhere around us.
"They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.
"On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the f*ckin' difference between winning and losing! Between livin' and dyin'!
"I’ll tell you this: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin' to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin' is! The six inches in front of your face!!!"
For me, that says it all about how I try to run and live and about how I want to be a father to Noah. I view things like races as life's ultimate challenge, as a choice between victory and defeat, between courage and cowardice, between happiness and misery, between living and dying (even if it's for 4th place in a 100-miler, as with Mohican). It's also how a lot of the guys and gals I run with approach the sport and their own lives. Maybe that's why I'm out there every Saturday and Sunday for our group runs, why I often take life too seriously...and why I over-raced this past spring and probably take on more than I can handle sometimes. I want to fight for every inch in front of me...because not fighting isn't living.
If I had to teach Noah one thing beyond how to love, it would be to work hard for everything...inch by inch...and never, ever give up.
Even if living and running like how Pacino describes sometimes brings injury and disappointment, just as it brings growth and development, is there another way to live?