Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Sanity of Insanity

I recently had a friend drop me a note after one of my blogs about winter running. His message... "I really admire what you are doing but you are insane". I thanked him for both compliments.

I was traveling last week and on one of my early morning cold runs, the ones where icicles are forming on my mustache and hair, I was thinking about what he said. I decided he was right. Certainly sanity is in the eye of the beholder and if the eyes of the desk clerk at the hotel when I returned from my run are any example, I'd find myself in one of those nice, form fitting, white jackets.

There's actually a website where you can test to see if you are an "insane runner".

Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Given this will be my 14 or 15th Boston Marathon (lost track along the way) I'd have to say I fit the definition.

In reality though, isn't that what life is all about. What about the saying "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again". Granted there are exceptions to every rule (like trying to jump over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle), but many of us see failure as a challenge not as invitation to quit. We also see achievements as milestones that we build on, not necessarily the end game.

Given I've already done the marathon before and I am far from ever running as fast as I have in the past, what am I trying to prove by doing it again? My wife thinks I do it to prove to myself that I'm not getting old. Believe me; my body reminds me of my age on almost every run.

I think what it is really about is living life. Ask any runner who has completed the Boston Marathon how they feel when they cross that finish line. The sense of being alive, of accomplishment, of confidence, makes all the effort worthwhile (well most of it anyway). Whenever I challenge myself, whether it's in my job, sports, marriage, raising my children, or just trying something new, I get a great sense of satisfaction for putting out the effort and even more of a thrill if I succeed. Disappointments? They come with the territory. But the downs make the ups that much better.

My son Nick had this great philosophy on life. He would try almost anything and seemed to be afraid of almost nothing (except frogs). Even at an early age he was scuba diving, boogie boarding in the ocean, mountain biking (sometimes at night), competing in paintball contests, playing lacrosse and hiking mountains. He had this mantra of Living Life Large and wherever possible to help others to do that too.

So why do I run the marathon? Running the marathon to help others is one way to honor his memory. I've tried to take his lessons and make them part of my life. To never miss an opportunity to help others, never miss an opportunity to tell my family I love them, to try and encourage and support others that are facing challenges and need to know someone cares, and to Live Life Large with as few regrets as possible. God knows I don't always succeed but I'll keep trying.

By Albert Einstein's definition, I guess that makes me insane.

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