Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Memories, Part 1

As we descended Big Hill, the pain of running nearly 99 miles was radiating through my feet and legs. My legs felt like they’d been pounded a thousand times by a sledgehammer, and my bloody, blistered feet like they’d been assaulted with sandpaper and a vice grip. Even with my headlamp on full-blast, I could barely see in front of me. The descent was so steep and the pain in my quads and feet so acute that awareness of my surroundings was virtually impossible. I wailed out of agony, but at least I was still running, and at least I was winning this race. Wracked by the paranoia of being passed even this late in the race, I kept asking Tim, Kenny and Dan if anyone was behind us. No, they kept answering.

Finally, when we got to the bottom of the descent we continued running down the dirt road toward the finish, my shot quads getting a reprieve from the massacre at Big Hill. This was Wally Road, and we were in the middle of beautiful Ohio country most people would describe as nowhere. The finish was close, but in my fatigued, foggy mind it was in the next galaxy. “You’re twelve hundred yards from the finish,” Kenny told me. “How do you know that?” I asked him, hoping Kenny would have a reassuring answer. “I measured it by car earlier today,” he answered. I smiled. That was Kenny – he always did his homework. Twelve hundred yards was just three laps around the track, I thought. Easy enough.

Finally, I saw the lights of the campground and knew that this great journey, which had taken me 100 miles and nearly 20 hours, was minutes from being over. With the finish line in sight, I entered the gravel driveway and picked up my pace. “Be sure to hold those arms high when you go in," said Tim, a winner of many ultras himself. “Absolutely,” I replied. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was about to win a prestigious 100-mile race…me, a regular guy.

Approaching quickly, I saw people beyond the finish line and heard their cheers. Was I really the first through? A camera flashed as I crossed the line with my arms raised. I wanted these few seconds of finishing—of winning a race—to last forever. I wanted to freeze the moment in time and relish the feelings of accomplishment, victory and ecstasy to last forever. But these few seconds would come and go, leaving me with memories that I would one day share with my son, Noah.


One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams.” At the seminal point in the movie, Doc Graham, played by the great Burt Lancaster, says, “You know, we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day.”

I knew when I crossed the line at the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run that winning the race was one of those special moments in life that don’t happen very often. For some, they don’t happen at all. But as I look back on the years, I can see that my life was full of special moments—many that I failed to recognize, a few that I didn’t fully appreciate and several that I over-estimated in value. This is a record of those memories. And may this record not only bring clarity to my life, but also inspire you to look back on yours and reflect on those special moments that changed the course of your being.

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