Sunday, March 23, 2014

If wishes were fishes all the world would be fed

  Don’t you just love one liners that wrap wisdom and a bit of scolding into and easy to speak statement.I can remember one of my relatives using a similar version of this when I was young (I’m sure after I said something that started with I wish…).  Now that I’m a grandfather I’m tuning up on all the great old phrases that make me look wiser than I am.  The more common current day version is If wishes were fishes all beggars would eat.   I was surprised to find the original version is part of a Scottish nursery rhyme that goes something like this:
                If wishes were horses all beggars would ride
                If turnips were swords I’d have one by my side
                If “ifs” and “ands” were pots and pans
                There would be no need for tinker’s hands 

 You have to love the internet.  It has a way of not only putting the most esoteric information at your fingertips but at the same time correcting years of society morphing original culture into modern day sound bites.   We can’t even blame this one on texting or the 140 character limit of Twitter since today’s version was established long before the internet.

So what has this got to do with the Boston Marathon, marathoning in general, or my efforts at either?  I’m glad you asked.    Pretty much nothing….and maybe everything.    How many of us have a dream, set a goal, even made a proclamation of what we are going to do and spent more time thinking and talking about it than actually taking steps to make it real.   I know I have.    Fear could be a big part of it.   Fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of the commitment or fear of just letting go of what you have to try for something new.    There is no question that staying in our comfort zones get in the way of dreams. 

 And of course we are great at justifying our inaction to ourselves.   We have that little voice in our heads that says I’m too busy, too tired, too old, or have too many other priorities at this point in my life.   And he/she always ends with the ultimate justification….I’ll get to it later.    Yeah…right.   Between the fear and the justification it’s a wonder mankind isn’t still back in the stone age. 

 There’s a flip side to fear that is also a motivator.  The fear of not doing something, of being insignificant, of disappointing someone, of losing what you already have.     It’s that motivation that can turn the ordinary person into an Olympic track star when they need to escape a dangerous situation.    

 I’ve heard lots of reasons why people run marathons.   To prove they can do it, to improve their health, for the glory of the win, to test their personal limits, and, in the case of charity runners, to help others.   For me the motivation is to remember; or more specifically not to forget.    Committing to the Boston Marathon assures that at least once a year I will do something that not only reminds me of Nick but allows me to fund a charity in his name that will keep his memory alive.  Why do this by running a marathon, and in particular one where you have to work to qualify every year?   Partially because Nick loved athletic challenges and loved to live life large.    But mostly the fear of forgetting my son far outweighs the fears of not finishing and requalifying,  or the fear of getting injured, or the struggles to train in the cold weather or the aches and pains of old age.    The side benefits of better health, helping others, and eating all the ice cream I want aren’t bad either.

 Let’s face it, sometimes no amount of effort is going to make a wish come true.   Short of discovering time travel that certainly is the case for me.    In the interim, I run marathons and along the way, through the generosity of those who support me,  hopefully make other people’s wishes and dreams come true.   So here is my version of the Scottish nursery rhyme.  It will even fit in a Tweet.
If wishes were fishes all the world would be fed
               If dreaming made it happen we’d all stay in bed
              If words were the answer then all dreams would come true
             Turn wishes and dreams into things that we do

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Father Time and Mother Nature can make for cruel parents

When I was younger I use to think 60 was really old.   Now that I’ve arrived I realize I was right.   It’s not that I think of myself as old  (on a good day my wife would say I’m mentally an adolescent)  it’s just that my body keeps reminding me.  That’s particularly true when I’m out marathon training.    There are days when I just feel like an old car that still runs but the chassis is sagging, the shocks are shot, the headlights aren’t very bright and it makes a wheezing sound when it’s going uphill.   While it still runs, there is no longer a 4th gear (or even a third gear), having a full tank of gas has a whole different meaning, and I carry a lot more junk in the trunk.   One positive is the neighborhood dogs no longer chase me since my exhaust rendered them unconscious.
 I can still get out and do a creative imitation of running but I miss the old days when you would just glide along the roads with the wind blowing through your hair (heck…I miss the hair too).    These days I think the correct definition for my style of running is “plodding”.   I was running through a neighborhood the other day and a man walking his dog passed me by and asked if running in place was a new form of exercise.   
So while Father Time has been beating me around the body with the old age stick, I expected Mother Nature to swoop in and give an old man a break.  Not likely.    Going out for this morning’s long run (18+ miles) I was greeted with a balmy 6 degrees.    When it’s that cold you not only have to work harder to breath, but the pavement is less forgiving on the legs and the inevitable sweat tends to freeze to your mustache, eyebrows and any exposed skin.   Oh yeah, and the water bottle freezes to a semi-solid slush that gives you brain freeze when you drink.    I guess I should be thankful; it was 2 degrees when I went out the other day. 
Cold, while difficult, is a minor annoyance when compared with snow.   The lack of traction on snow covered roads makes forward progress twice as difficult.  Given how slow I’m already going I have nightmares that I may find myself going backward in time.   Add to this the risk of muscle injury (you use totally different muscles trying not to slip), the risk of stepping in hidden potholes and of course staying out of the way of the ever present but woefully ill equipped winter drivers.   While over the years I’ve gotten use to the idea of running in the snow in Boston, it is a whole different experience in PA where plowing the roads to payment is an occasional experience.   
If you read this far I appreciate that you have been kind enough to put up with my venting.   I suspect Father Time is a strict parent and I don’t expect much help from him.  But I’m putting in a special request to Mother Nature to ease up and take pity on an old man.    If not for me, for the poor flowers and trees that may not see spring till sometime in June.