Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Glass Half Full

Does anyone else have a problem with radio stations that play Christmas music on Thanksgiving? I do. To me it’s the invited guest that shows up 30 minutes early. I’m still trying to get the desserts cooked and I’m forced to fast forward beyond the moment. I want to scream "Wait! We're not done with this holiday yet!" But every year, the musical ghost of Christmas Present comes about 24 hours too early. I think its there to help the retailers who need people in an instant holiday mood - the mood that makes people so willing to part with cash on stuff they would never - ever -buy at any other time of the year. When I walk into a store, I chuckle at some of the stuff that is for sale. I mean, how desperate must someone be to purchase a Homer Simpson Chia pet? Is there nothing better to give as a gift than a wall-mounted fish that sings? The fact is, if you can't find anything more meaningful to give than that, then the person you are buying for is clearly not in need of anything!

Every kid's mantra is "What I want for Christmas is..." Don't get me wrong: this is not going to be some anti-consumerism screed. Au contraire. On my runs of late, I've been thinking particularly about this particular season and how it's quite contradictory. While the lesson of the season is that it is better to give than to receive, I see it as a season of "want". What do you want for Christmas? What's on your Christmas list? Little kids are quick to rattle off the items that'll make their hearts flutter on Christmas morning. But when you get older, I think it’s harder to answer. At least it is for me. What do I really need that can be bought in a store? It's the time of year when we focus on what we don't have, and replace it with stuff that we really don't need. It just kind of fills a seasonal void.

Even with that quasi-morose thought, I still find myself drawn to the season. Just after Thanksgiving, the dark morning or early evening runs become a voyage of discovery - to see which house has but up lights this day. On Christmas eve, I load up my iPod with Christmas tunes and hit the roads, a smile on my face and cheer fueling my legs. Later that evening, our neighborhood has a standing tradition of placing luminaries on our respective properties, on the road. The roads of Salisbury are lined with thousands of glowing candles - truly beautiful. Perhaps this isn't the right time to mention our first Christmas here in Richmond, when I set out our luminaries, lit the small tea candles inside the white paper bags, and retreated to our front porch to view my handiwork. What I saw was truly remarkable, and quite different than expected: several of my bags were going up in flames. I had a moment of panic that I would become the Richmond equivalent of Mrs. O'Leary's cow, and was certain, somewhere, that Martha Stewart was having a seizure.

I love making the magic for my kids on Christmas. I remember one year - in a fit of alpha-mommy grandeur - I made a home-made Gingerbread house, recipe and architecture courtesy of Martha Steward and her Turkey-Hill elves. It was a work of art, truly, and took 2 days to make and assemble. It was pure gingerbread, with a thatched roof of shredded wheat, and caramelized sugar window panes. On Christmas, I had the brilliant idea of - during dinner - putting a tea light in the house to light the windows. It created a lovely glow. I expected a miniature Hansel and Gretel to come dashing out of it at any moment. And it smelled heavenly: The candle heated the gingerbread and it smelled fairy-tale like. The heat of the candle, however, melted the glass windowpanes, something that never, ever happens in Martha Stewart land.

I probably should have saved that house, sprayed it with lacquer and brought it out year after year. Maybe given the roof a quick refurb with a new set of frosted shredded wheat tiles, replaced the window panes. But I didn't. I pitched it after the holiday was over. Why? It was a labor of love; why would I discard it so quickly? I don't know. Maybe the magic that it cast expired after the New Year. Like decorations for sale in a store, they look faded and tired once the holiday is over.

My kids are getting older and wiser, and they don’t ‘buy in’ to the magic as much. I find myself trying to protect them more from the rampant consumerism, and to remind them – as a friend recently reminded me – to not forget ‘the baby’.

The season comes too swiftly and leaves equally fast, and I find myself often left feeling a bit empty when it’s over. I’m selfish: I want the glow to keep going. I often tell my kids that it’s good to not always get what you want; if you did, how boring life would be. I guess things aren’t as special if they are always guaranteed to be had.

I wish for the same thing every year at Christmas. It’s something very personal, and very simple, and mine and mine alone. I’ve learned some wonderful lessons this year and will – instead of wishing for anything – be thankful for having lived and learned those lessons. In hanging on to what I don’t have I’m not living in the season of doing for others before myself. Instead, when someone asks me what I want for Christmas, I’ll say nothing, and smile, to them and to myself. In my own way, I’ll reclaim the beauty, simplicity, and joy of this season, to hear the music, to smell the pine, to live the miracle and be true to my mantra thank you for this day. For a myriad of reasons, this year, it will be more than enough.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Thanksgiving day is upon is. It's a day where we give thanks by eating everything in sight except for maybe the table cloth, linens, and silverware. It's a day of happy oblivion, a day eat more than is wise, drink more than is necessary, think less than is required.

I'd like to say that everyday I'm grateful for what I have, but there are moments where the mundane distractions of life overtake the grounded reality where I'd prefer to be planted and I find myself whining about broken microwave ovens, gutters that are peeling off the house, and the dishwasher my daughter has again forgotten to empty.

Today was the ultimate reality check. My dear friend Mickey - and his warrior of a son, Cody - is the check I wish I didn't have. Cody is in remission from neuroblastoma, a hideous form of childhood cancer with a high rate of recurrance and not a single iota of compassion. He has been through chemo that has diminished his hearing, stem cell transplants, and more pain than any one person should live through in a lifetime. Cody is 5 years old.

And, on this eve of the day when we all give thanks, my dear friend Mickey and his wife Diane, are staring into the abyss once again with a diagnosis on their dear son that is grave: the cancer has recurred.

It's days like this where you reevalutae where your feet rest. What is it that you gripe about, and in the grander scheme, is it really all that big a deal? My shameful answer is a resounding "NO". I have 3 beautiful, healthy childern. I am not a single mom, and I live a life that 95% of the world doesn't live. I don't worry if I have enough money to feed my kids, if I have enough to pay my mortgage... or worse: I don't have to worry - at present - that there may nothing to save the life of one of my childern.

I'd like to be able to write something of hope and grace for this day of thanksgiving; with news of Cody, it is harder than ever.

So, I'll offer up a simple prayer of hope that at this time next year, we are thankful for Cody's good health, good friends, and the days with which we have been blessed.

For you, Cody.


Friday, November 16, 2007

The Theory of Relativity

I was never the best science student. I took two years of it in college - biology and chemistry - before concluding that this particular course of study and I would be acquaintances but never lovers. I could appreciate its precision, work hard at the discipline, but like a pianist who is all thumbs could do a great rendition of 'Heart and Soul' but would never, ever be mistaken for Mozart. I still take pride in understanding the 'Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal'. OK, 'understanding' might be a bit of an overstatement; I can spell 'Heisenberg' as long as I enable spell check, and can remember that it’s a statistical probability of the location of electrons orbiting an atom. Or something like that. I have used it to describe the location of my children during the course of the day: I may not be able to say precisely where they are at any given moment, but I have a pretty good idea. See: esoteric scientific theories do have application in everyday life.

I can barely begin to understand Einstein’s "Theory of Relativity". I know that people often mistake it to mean E=mc^2, which I think – but am not certain – is a product of the theory. I know very broadly that one facet of it is about how time behaves with respect to motion and gravity - or something like that. I turned to Google for a more precise definition and found that the time/gravity behavior – Time Dilation – is a consequence of this theory. This definition, in its simplest form is:

Moving clocks tick slower than an observer's stationary clock

I read this and the first thing that came to mind was: Albert Einstein was full of shit.

I had plenty of proof to contradict his theory.

"Busy" is an understatement of an adjective to describe my typical day. With 3 involved kids, a full-time job, and a husband who frequently travels, my day is thin-sliced into small fragments of time. I know I can fold a load of laundry in 5 minutes, unless its whites. In that case we're talking HOURS of trying to match socks, and that Heisenberg principal comes into play again: I think I know where the match to this sock is… I swear I just saw it in this pile, I know its here somewhere… When I’m on a deadline, I’m praying for another 15 minutes. I race the clock on my morning runs, when I’m hosting book club or a party, or trying to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour on weeknights. I have more than enough memory to know that when I’m racing through my day, my moving clock – unlike Einstein’s – ticks faster, not slower. When I try and remember moments of my days, they register more like a blurred photograph – the F-stop too wide and the shutter speed too slow - than a discrete image.

Last weekend my dearest friends, Robin and Franny, challenged my crossed-armed certainty of my own theory of relativity when they ran the Richmond Marathon.

I’d signed up for the race – the 30th Anniversary! - the year before, on the same day I’d staggered off the course just shy of mile 18, a victim of dehydration and the unseasonably warm temperatures. While hooked up to my second bag of fluids in the hospital’s ER, I vowed to wreak vengeance on the course the following year. It was not to be: 10 weeks before the race, a pulled hamstring derailed my plans.

Have you ever had this moment of clarity where you realize how lucky you are in one particular aspect of your life? I’ve been blessed in this regard when it comes to friends: I may not have a lot of them, but the ones I have are the best on the planet. I have a handful who are indelibly imprinted on my heart: they know who they are without my telling them. Robin and Franny are two of them.

Robin swore off marathons forever; she’d done many – maybe 10? – and she had convinced herself that she’d done more than her fair share. Franny had done two: we’d been inspired by Robin and vowed to run our own, and trained together and finished the Shamrock Marathon in 2005. We followed up quickly – the three of us – with the 30th anniversary of the Marine Corps Marathon in October of that year. In both events, Franny and I started together but finished apart. As friends, there are few better. Robin is type A++: hardworking, organized, hard-charging, loyal. Franny is equally accomplished but with a different style: gentle, thoughtful, and with the patience of Job. I tease her and say I’m riding her coattails to heaven and I hope like hell they don’t do baggage screening at the pearly gates. She always finds the best in people, and in turn, people see the absolute best in her. These two friends of mine are rarities: without even trying they make everyone around them better.

On race day in Richmond, it was supposed to be Franny and me running this race. With my injury, Franny soldiered on, and Robin stepped up her training to keep her on pace as Franny wanted to qualify for Boston. A week before the marathon, she entered the race to guide Franny through the course. Think of that commitment and friendship: to run 26 miles with your friend for your friend’s sake. It boggles the mind, but is no surprise for those who know Robin.

Days before the race, I agreed to pace Robin’s husband, Carlton, through the 8k race run in conjunction with the marathon. It was loads of fun running with Carlton and their 12-year-old son Michael. I tried my best to navigate them through the crowd of 4,000+ participants. It was a nice change of pace, to be a coach, to think of others and be blissfully unaware of the ticking clock.

After the race and a quick cup of coffee, I ran the several blocks to my car and raced to mile 19.5 all the time thinking I wish I had 15 more minutes. Time was speeding by; I could not be late and let them down. I parked and ran on foot to the agreed upon meeting place. Within 15 minutes, I saw them approach in tandem, stride for stride. Shortly before they reached me, Franny’s brother, Joe, jumped in to accompany his sister; he’d drive in from Washington, DC that morning.

I was screaming and cheering and getting them pumped up. I jumped in with Robin who said Run with me. Franny has Joe. I told her I’d run her to 23, then run with Franny the rest of the way. It was my own way of playing King Solomon for the last 6.2-ish miles. I quizzed her about Franny’s current state: Did you keep her slow for the first few miles? Did she hydrate well? How did she handle the dreaded Lee Bridge? Robin gave me the run-down, and was chatty and smiling. More than once I remarked on how effortless and smooth she was after running 20-something miles. At one point I took a look behind me and Franny and Joe were nowhere to be found. I started to fret. At mile 23, I sent Robin on her way to the finish. The time and miles were flowing by. I had no concerns about her finishing; her stride and mood were light and fluid. I turned around and ran against the flow, cheering the other runners I met Looking good, you’re almost at 23, hang in there, keep it smooth… until I saw Franny and Joe.
Purgatory happens in the latter part of a marathon. The strength of the mind has to overcome the fatigue of the body and when I looked at my dear friend, her face was a study of pain. At mile 23, I re-evaluated Einstein’s – and my own – Theory of Time Dilation. She was moving, but according to my theory, the clock should be moving with equal or faster speed; I should have known better. When you run a marathon and you are beyond mile 20, you don’t so much count down the miles as you do the minutes: 4 miles to go… that’s about X minutes… and suddenly time slows to a crawl.

I join her and Joe. I hear her feet slapping on the pavement and issue my first command: You’re overstriding, shorten it up. Relax your shoulders. Think smooth. I ask her questions and her breathing is labored; she is in the long dark miles. She tells me she can’t really answer and I know what I need to do: distract her for about 30 endless minutes. I tell her about my running with Robin, I ask her questions that require nothing more than a single syllable. At mile 24, Joe and I start telling jokes; the look on her face tells me she’s hearing nothing. Joe strays a bit in front of us, and I bark an order at this Coast Guard Captain: Joe! Get right next to her! I’m on one side, you’re on the other. We’re guiding her in. We hit a hill and Franny starts to fade. I know how strong she is; I can’t bear to see her succumb. C’mon Franny: use your arms! Pump your arms! This is where is all comes together! This is where all those miles pay off! All those 800’s come home! Remember them all – every one of them! This hill is nothing – you OWN this hill! I look at her face – I think she is going to cry. I have a moment of fear: She can’t give up now. We’re almost at mile 25. She can do this. I say See the top of that building Franny? That’s the finish! You can see it! 15 minutes Franny! It’s over in 15 minutes!

It’s here that my time theory is turned on its head: I understand with perfect clarity just how long 15 minutes can be. On any given day, I beg for 15 more minutes. In these waning moments of this race, Franny wants this over now, but she keeps running on, with little or nothing in the tank. We hit another hill, and knowing nothing about these last miles I say with all confidence This is the last hill! This is it! Work it, use your arms. We turn a corner and in the distance I see the mile marker Look! Up there! 1.2 miles to go! That’s 5 laps of the track! I’m yelling, I can feel my throat getting sore. I want to believe that I’m helping, but have been in Franny’s shoes enough to know that my efforts are nothing short of window dressing. Look Franny, it’s just a couple of blocks, a couple of turns. A zig and a zag. You just need to get to that final turn. It doesn’t end at the finish, it ends when you can SEE the finish. The rest is gravy. We turn a corner and face another hill. Damn. I’ve lied. Franny’s face crumbles. I’m afraid she’s going to break down. DON’T YOU QUIT ON ME NOW! Alright Franny, it’s time to ANSWER THE QUESTION! Answer it, Franny, Answer the FRIGGING QUESTION!!!

One of my friends on a running forum has a little acronym that he uses in the latter stages of the marathon: ATFQ. Answer The Frigging Question. I guess it applies to any stressful point in life, and the question is pretty fluid: How bad do you want it? How much are you willing to pay? How much does it matter? Each of us has to answer that question, and the truly brave replace the easy answer that comes naturally with one whose price is more difficult to tender. I watched Franny do just that: she gritted her teeth and took that hill. She even tried to jokingly punch me out as I continued my useless loud bootstrapping. And when we turned that final corner, the finish line a quarter mile down the road, time ceased to exist: her 3 children were there with her husband at the top of the last hill. Her 10-year old twins took off, running their mom in, and I was laughing and screaming Leave it here, leave it all out on the course! She heard nothing: She saw only her kids, felt only the surge of joy and love that their presence gave and in that found her legs and another gear. I stepped off the course and marveled at my friend, cheered, laughed, cried. I knew Robin was already in, and could see this moment, was feeling the joy of what she had fostered with her training and last-minute race entry. And, as with all good friends, I realized that in my weak efforts to inspire Franny and Robin, I was the one left inspired and renewed. Franny flew down that last hill toward her best time ever. She may not have met that qualifying standard for the Boston Marathon, but it didn’t matter: She’d conquered the distance and her doubts in those last terrible, wonderful miles. My quiet friend loudly answered that question I had put to her and in that final sprint to the finish joyfully raced with her children and - in those short two tenths of a mile - left fatigue, despair, and Einstein’s theories in her wake.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Second Chances

Do Over.

Is there any more glorious phrase? When you're kid, there is nothing more redeeming than the coveted 'do over'. Isn't it blessed relief when things don’t count, when you get that trial run to figure it out without anyone looking or keeping score? Think of high school and the exam you KNOW you bombed, and the teacher announcing that the scores weren’t what she expected so there will be a retest? Is there any sweeter bliss? You get a pass, a chance to do it right this time… Often we think If only life were so generous, so forgiving and believe that it isn’t. But more often than not, it is. We read about them daily: the addict who has found new life in recovery, the high school sweethearts who rediscover their long-ago love at a 50th reunion, the rat-race career hound who changes jobs and finds meaning and purpose in teaching or helping others, the profoundly depressed person who claws herself to the light and embraces life with new vigor and hope. Second chances abound, if we are lucky enough to recognize them, grab them, and hold them close: second chances at life, at love, at doing it right, at fill-in-the-blank. It’s that ‘Lazarus moment”, that sweet moment of ecstasy at discovering your ultimate point of do over. Do you have one? Can you pinpoint it? Some have the epiphany, the profound moment that changes the life. For others, it is in the act of atonement that they find their second life. For the most of us, that moment is much more subtle, and that first step is discovered in looking back. It doesn’t matter that hindsight provides the clarity.

When you think about it, is the moment given as much as created, taken? That sublime do over is there for anyone to seize. It comes from a tiny ember that lives in all of us although too-often deprived of light and oxygen from fear and life experience. This thing? HOPE.

Hope lives in all of us – we are born with it. Through the course of life, childlike precociousness is tempered by the fear of experience that becomes adult wariness. That fire that burns deep inside each of us is – if not extinguished – tamed by the oxygen-deprivation of life experience. The ember keeps burning, it’s there, whispering in our ears, begging to be fed.

I was a runner in my early through late teens. I lived it, breathed it, ate it, drank it, slept it. I measured my seasons by ‘cross country’, ‘indoor track’, ‘outdoor track’, and ‘summer track’. Those were my seasons, the ebb and flow of my life. The sport was the barometer, the science by which I ate, rested, and worked. It filled the empty space between waking, school and dinner. It metastasized in my summers so that days were spent not at a pool slathered in sunscreen or shopping at a mall but at a track running intervals timed with absolute precision. My days were measured in hours:minutes:seconds. Then there was injury, followed by ennui, reinforced by marriage, job, and children. My seasons took on a much different tone, color, pace. I buried my running career and moved on down the life.

For me, running wasn’t the ‘do over’ itself as it was the route to the ‘do over’. It created the ability to believe in something bigger than my life, to expand the boundaries of what I believed was possible, the opportunity to push beyond the colloquially acceptable. But at a more gut-level, it extended beyond running to life, work, motherhood, family. It gave me the stamina and courage to change what was fundamentally broken, to break through the wall of inertia, and to charge through life with vigor and determination. Running didn’t make me a better person; hope did. My hope was expressed through the simple exercise of believing I could go one more step, one more block, one more mile. And while my natural impatience was tempered and humbled by the distances I ran, the confidence to overcome my perceived shortcomings were shored up in the belief and hope that maybe – just maybe – if I dared to believe in something well beyond what I thought possible, the trickle down would be contentment, clarity, and happiness. And when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I looked at the bright blue sky and thanked the heavens for having had the courage to throw down the gauntlet, to challenge the distance and not bow to fatigue, pain, or disbelief.

Grab hope wherever you find it. Be it a tiny, flickering ember or the white hot blaze of realization, capture it, harness it, take the leap of faith and believe. If you want that second chance,don’t wait for it to surface: mine it, find it, make it happen. That is the essence of hope: it exists on the tiniest sliver of faith, desire, and childlike belief in the simple ability to dare to try, to take that first step. Hope rarely dies, doesn't have a shelf life, and to sustain it requires very little but the smallest idea of a dream. The dream of something different: to break the addiction, to find love, to claw out of the dark toward the light, to believe in something bigger than oneself. Hope is the best of all things.

Run with all grace and audacity.

Monday, November 5, 2007



Thank you for this day.

These 5 simple words typically start every one of my runs. In the early morning, even before the sun may be up, I’ll look up at the sky and whisper these words. It’s a small prayer, a mantra, a habit, my talisman of good luck. It is my verbal charm, my small something to remind myself in the busy swirl of this life, how lucky I am to be standing there, at that moment.

This past Saturday morning was a lazy day, and as I drank my coffee before I was to run, I got caught up in watching the US Men’s marathon trials live on my laptop. Those runners were something to see, the grace, the effort, the speed. As they sped throught the miles, it was Ryan Hall who awed us all with the apparent ease in which he conquered not only the unforgiveable distance and the hills of Central Park, but a field as deep in talent as this country has ever assembled. I got caught up in the battle for 3rd place, and alternately cheered for the dark horse Brian Sell - whose mustache and sideburns made him look hauntingly like a blond Steve Prefontaine – and Dan Browne, who would muster challenge after challenge before succumbing to cramps and the spirit of Sell to fall out of contention. It was exhilarating to watch, inspiring, wonderful. They were something to see. You can’t help but breathe deep and exhale, and feel the energy of possibility. It again reminded me of the lesson that if you do the work and believe in yourself, you can do the extraordinary. I took this and the images of those valiant runners with me as I went out on my familiar 8.1 mile loop.

Upon my return, I hopped back on the laptop to check the results of all the finishers and was stunned to read the news that Ryan Shay had died. How could this be? How could one as young and fit as Shay DIE? IN A RACE? Every year there is always a story of someone dying at the end of a marathon – the rigors of the race provoke weaknesses in the body which have – until that moment – gone unnoticed. But Shay was a proven product, someone who pushed his body to the limits of its endurance, a world-class athlete. Suddenly, Hall’s triumph was muted by the tragedy. And runners around the world struggled to make sense of his death.

The thing about running is that it makes you feel so alive. You feel good, you feel bad, you sweat, you’re hot, you're cold, you feel like you could run forever, you want to stop NOW. You ache, you fly, you want to do this forever, you wish you were doing anything but this. It is an impossibility to fit Shay’s square-pegged death in the round-holed life affirmation that is the marathon trails. I can’t believe it…How many times did we hear this repeated? I thought of his wife of only 3 months, had they even finished writing thank-you notes for their wedding gifts?

He was young, seemingly healthy, infinitely talented. Overlay death on this description and you have the essence of tragedy. It’s not a new scenario: it happens, every day. Killed in a car accident… In a roadside bombing… from cancer. We’ve become immune to the descriptions. We all feel a palpable sense of loss when we read of someone’s child, snatched from this earth too soon. But typically we’re far enough removed where that the sense of loss is – for better or worse – fleeting. Those of us who run felt more than just a momentary jolt when we read of Shay. He was ‘one of us’, a fellow runner. I couldn’t help but wonder what his last moments were like, as he stepped off the course and staggered toward the boathouse in Central Park. Was he confused or disoriented? Was he afraid? Did he know something terrible was happening? Did he look to the sky and wonder if this was real? Was his heart pounding wildly and did he somehow think be still my beating heart without fully understanding the devastating precision with which his prayer would be answered?

The running forums were jammed with threads of disbelief. A petition was started for Shay to be on the cover of a prominent running magazine. I thought about this: What do we celebrate here? Hall’s triumph? Shay’s death? Shay’s life? I’m pretty sure a cover on a magazine will not be adequate homage to a young man of such gift and talent, but in our effort to assuage our own sense of grief and loss, it is the best we can muster. The cover of this running magazine may well be our idea of Elysium for him. We will wonder if his equally talented widow will be able to train while carrying the burden of such heavy loss on her heart. And our own sorrow will pass like smoke in the wind; We will leave the true grieving to those who loved and knew him best.

We may not acknowledge it, but Shay’s death reminds us of how lucky we are in comparison to those whose lives are cut short. From a dusty road in the middle east to a 26 mile swath of pavement in Manhattan - and all the places in between -we need to memorialize the loss of all those whose middle age is their teens. Lofty thoughts, for sure. It begs the question how do you reconcile these deaths, these lives? The best you can: by lacing up your shoes, looking to the place where your soul finds meaning, and humbly giving thanks for the simple ability to participate in the endurance sport of life.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

How do you start anything?

I've always had trouble starting something big. Always. I have trouble getting my arms around it, trouble scoping out the steps, and most of time I leave it to the last minute. Then I'm left with the inevitable regret of wishing I'd been more organized or patient in the planning process. I have trouble with long-term thinking; I can see point "A" and point "Z" but have trouble imagining the alphabet in between.

Writing is a perfect example.

I've thought about writing for, not surprisingly, a long time. "Write, Monica", people tell me, "You should really write". And then I think "Yeah, I'll write... but about what?" I get spooked thinking about this big thing - WRITING - and feel this need to come to the blank sheet with all these ideas waiting to be transcribed. It's not really writer's block. It's more accurately "How do I begin?"

It seems my best writing is about running. But how many times can I write about a marathon or a race? Maybe - just perhaps - my best writing can come out of running. Maybe it's inevitable that as I let my legs run free, my mind follows. I think of all kinds of stuff when I run, I work out problems, run off anxiety and anger, burn off the excess negative energy. It's random and I just think. A Lot. So during today's run, an idea filtered through the endorphin-fueled jumble: Start a blog, and write about what I think about on my runs.

What should I name this blog? What shape should it take? Certainly, not just about running; that would be pretty myopic and boring. I thought about an article I had just read in Sports Illustrated about Alberto Salazar - the American marathoning legend from the early 80's - battling back from a heart attack. And the author wrote "Marathoning isn't life, as Alberto Salazar once believed. rather, life is a marathon..." The marathon as a metaphor for life is cliche and overplayed. I find the notion of the marathon of life a bit more compelling. You have to pace yourself through a day in this life much like you do a race, but how do you measure the pace of life? In a race, pace is minutes per mile (or minutes per kilometer), but how does that translate to life? Is it hours worked, errands run, loads of laundry folded, noses wiped, tears dried, hugs given and received? I don't know the answer, I don't think there is one single answer. But its neat idea to noodle over.

I'm standing at point A and am making my way point Z. And I'll figure out that alphabet along the way.

Lao-tsu said "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand." The warm-up is over. Runners take your mark...