Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Courage to be Afraid

I’m not one of those people that does well watching horror movies.   It’s not so much the gore (there is a lot more in some war movies like Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge than in most horror movies), as it is the suspense.  It’s the not knowing what’s next that sets my teeth on edge and gets the blood pumping.      I’m typically the guy in the theater that jumps and spills his popcorn when the unexpected happens.

You would think that after 19 Boston Marathons all the excitement and fear would be a thing of the past.  Au contraire.   Each marathon brings with it a new set of challenges and thereby a new set of concerns.   Sometimes it’s injuries, sometimes the weather, sometimes the training (lack thereof) but most of the time it’s all of the above resulting in fear of failure.   Failure in this case would be not finishing, although in most cases there is the added pressure of finishing within a predetermined time.

Last weekend I ran a race with my niece Ali, nephew Drew and sister-in-law Marena.  The race was a half marathon but Drew, Marena and I would run it as a relay while Ali would take on the whole 13.1 miles.   For all of them, running this race would be the farthest they had ever run.   They all finished and they all did awesome.  It was a thrill to be a part of their accomplishments.    On the drive home I marveled at the courage it took for each of them to commit to a challenge of doing something they had never done before knowing it would not be pain-free.  They didn’t have to, nobody made them.  

So, why do it?  For many of us I think we thrive on challenges.   For me, the bigger the challenge the more excitement about the accomplishment but also the bigger the fear of failure.   I’ve found it’s not about convincing myself I’m not afraid, it’s about having the courage to let myself be afraid and to do it anyway.   Granted, even in my daffiest moments I wouldn’t sign up to run across the Sahara Dessert (it was an actual race) or run 1000 marathons in 1000 days (monks in Japan).    Sometimes being afraid of failure is just good common sense.   BTW…if a monk starts the challenge and doesn’t quit before 101 marathons then rumor has it he has to kill himself if he doesn’t finish.    Serious motivation.

Last week I had the privilege of visiting a hospital pediatric cancer floor.    It was, uplifting, heart rending, and a lesson in true courage.    Children as young as infants and as old as high school teenagers who have had their world reduced to a single room, frequently only leaving to go for more tests and treatments.  They spend as much time plugged into intravenous bags as plugged into their iPhones.   The rooms are often decorated like they might be at home with posters, and pictures, and of course stuffed animals and video game consoles.     For many of them their fight is a multi-year process that includes multiple setbacks.   One teenager told me that the biggest fear they face is not the fear of the unknown, it the fear of a relapse.     It’s knowing what it took to get through it before and facing the knowledge that they have to go through it all again.    Having the courage to face being afraid but to keep fighting.   It certainly puts my more trivial fears of finishing a marathon in perspective.  Keeps me focused on raising donations for Help in the Nick of Time as well.

With two weeks to go I’m winding down my training.    My last 40-mile week is behind me from here on in it will be shorter runs and rest.   At this point, nothing I can do from a training perspective will help.     Runs have been almost a minute a mile slower than last year which means I’ll likely be out on the course almost a half hour longer than normal, but who cares…I’m just thankful to be healthy enough to get out there and privileged to have a number this year.    

Nervous about finishing?  Yes!  Excited about being there?  Hell yes!   

1 comment:

Robert Lownie said...

You sir, in a word(s), You ROCK! You are an inspiration. You are incredible. You have every reason, all easily justified for NOT running (yet) another Marathon but you choose to puch through the pain and fear and do it again! We'll see you at the race, cheering you on, and at the FINISH line! (I've no doubt Nick is proud of you. Perhaps thinks you're a bit bonkers, but proud of his Dad nonetheless. Go get 'em DAve!