Tuesday, April 30, 2013

#444: Why Would Anyone Want to Run a Marathon?

After finishing the
2011 Iron Horse Half...
Why on earth would anybody want to run a marathon? 

... and then in 2012.
What a difference a year makes.
It takes forever to train. It screws up your system. It makes you cry and puke. Sometimes you pee yourself. Sometimes you fall down and bleed into your $15 socks (socks!) And what do you get when you're done? A tee shirt. A goofy medal to hang on the wall. The knowledge that you finished in 26,493rd place in a race that was finished before you were a third of the way done. Nobody in their right mind would do this.

Ahhhh... we're getting warmer.

So what's the problem? What's wrong with a person's mind that prompts them to lace up a pair of shoes that cost more than a prom dress and run 26 miles, 385 yards?

Marathoners aren't satisfied. Getting by isn't enough for us. We want to go farther. The places we've already been just don't fulfill us. We want to to go where we've never been before. No matter what we've achieved or praise we've received, there's still something missing. Marathoners don't want things handed to them. We recognize that life is full of blessings and gifts. The sun and the rain. Feet that can carry us. Friends who support us. But there is something in them that can only feel fulfilled by something they had to go out and earn.

The face of triumph?
Yes, we run because there's something missing inside of us. But we also run because there's something in there that just has to come out. You know that feeling you get when your favorite song comes on and your feet start moving in spite of themselves? Or when you were a little kid and you finally managed to make it to the top of the ladder for your turn to slide down the big slide? Now multiply that by a couple of hundred times, and you'll have an idea of what the starting line of a marathon feels like. When I was waiting at the back of a pack of 37,000 runners to start the Pittsburgh Marathon last year, Mrs P could see my my bib number flipping up and down. It was my heart pounding. I know what stage fright feels like. This wasn't that. I wasn't nervous, I was ready to explode. Poets write because the words and pictures are too strong to keep trapped  inside their hearts. Runners run for the same reason. Every one is different, but every runner has something to say that only a marathon can express.

Where am I? What's my name?
Why can't I feel my legs?
So why does the Fat Man run?

Remember the story of Saul of Tarsus? The guy who came to write over half of the Christian Scriptures and is called St. Paul? Paul was struck blind on the road to Damascus where Jesus gave him his vocation: his calling. Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles... the witness who testified to the world outside of Israel about the loving power of Christ. I have always identified very strongly with Paul. I am also a witness. I am God's Apostle to the Nation of Survivors. I have been called to serve Christ's gospel of love and endurance and life to the people who know resurrection from the inside out. The suicidal. The addicted. The chronically ill.

I have been called to preach, and the Marathon is my sermon.

Post-race prayers for the Five
Paul's testimony was that nothing could separate us from the love of God. Mine is that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of the life that is God's gift to us. I run the Marathon because I want the world to know that nothing... not sickness, not sadness, not disease, not disorder, not shame nor embarrassment nor poverty nor injustice can separate us from living the life God gave us. From serving. From enduring. From achieving. From LIFE.

Life: The gift of God for the
People of God
Cancer can't do it.

Mental illness can't do it.

Losing your job, your savings, your house;

Nothing can keep us from living unless we allow it.

What does it mean to live strong? Not that you always win. Not that you never fail. Not that you are better than other people, or worthy of praise. I know myself better than you do, and I'm less worthy than anyone. But living strong means never ever ever giving up. Living strong means fighting for your life until the very end.

It means living as if there is something more important than comfort and and safety.
Pennsy, Coach Chelsea, and Darlene:
cancer Warriors.

It means living as if "surviving" just isn't enough.

The Marathon is my sermon, and it's message is this. You can achieve your dream. You can be more than the world tells you you can be - more than you can even believe yourself. You are stronger and braver and more inspiring than you have ever imagined and if a suicidal, bipolar, cancer ridden, blood clot filled, failed salesman, small-time actor, big time egotist, 400 pound Fat Man can run a damn Marathon, then you can do the amazing things that you were created to do, too.

Never, ever, ever give up.
That's why the Fat Man runs. Not so people will be inspired to say nice things about him. But so you will be inspired to find the marathoner inside yourself. The one who wants to run. To write, To start a business. To ask for a date. Your marathoner may not ever pin on a bib or grab a paper cup full of lukewarm Gatorade on the run, but you have your own race, and it scares the hell out of you. Let the Fat Man remind you that you can run it. Nothing can stop you from loving. Nothing can stop you from living.

The ones who give up? They all die.

Cancer can kill us, but it can never defeat us... nothing can... if we live strong.


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