Monday, February 26, 2007

Perspective

I went for an absolutely dreadful run yesterday. It was my long run day, 36 degrees and raining outside with wind whipping the rain into my face seemingly from every direction. I stepped in a puddle almost immediately and had wet socks, got a blister underneath my toe that split my toe open. I only discovered this later when I was scrubbing my foot with my lovely Grapefruit Chamomile sea salt scrub that I use after running and realized I'd just poured salt into an open wound - yeeeeow! Not recommended.

The run just never materialized into anything resembling fun, and I was starting to feel pretty damn sorry for myself when I passed this spot on the running trail, near the University football stadium and was suddenly taken back over twenty years to a November day when I was in college. On the way to classes in the nearby art buildings, I heard something that sounded like gunfire. We later found out that a student had taken up a position in the stadium with a sniper rifle and was firing at people. He shot and killed an Olympic runner who had also competed on the University Track team: Chris Brathwaite, near the spot I was running past yesterday.

I hadn't thought of that name in decades, but it came immediately to mind. He was a sprinter, originally from Trinidad & Tobago who had competed in two Olympic games. It's not unusual when you're out running on the paths in our town to be overtaken by Olympians past and present. I've been blown past by some of the best runners in the world out there: Marla Runyan, Alberto Salazar, and Mary Decker-Slaney to name a few. Twenty-three years ago, Chris Brathwaite was just out doing exactly what I was doing yesterday (only probably a good bit faster): going for a jog on the beautiful bark trails envisioned by Steve Prefontaine that pass along the river. He didn't know it would be his last run, and probably never knew what hit him.

From that point forward in my run, I vowed to stop whining and letting the weather get me down. I had let the rain bring my run down to a drudgery, but I squared up my shoulders, concentrated on my form, and tried my best to ignore the cold. A funny thing happened: my run got a whole lot better. It felt more like a gift to be out there running, even in the freezing rain, than a chore. As the legendary Prefontaine once said "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." I had definitely not been giving my best, but the memory of Chris Brathwaite's last run on that spot had brought back how precious it is to have this gift at all. As I've been struggling this last week with appreciating the gift of the last few days of my dog's life, this lesson seems to be one I'm destined to be presented with again and again.

This is not to say that I hope fervently that my next long run is not going to be accomplished in sleet and freezing rain, but even if that's the way the cards fall, I'll try to keep yesterday's lesson in mind.

3 comments:

Donald said...

I heard about that shooting on the news today. What a terrible thing.

You're definitely taking some hits this week. Hang in there, things are bound to get better.

Robin said...

The shooting was over 20 years ago, sorry I wasn't terribly clear about that. I was just reminiscing. Undoubtably something similar has happened to someone else this week though, I guess some things never change.

TriJack said...

perspective can be a strong motivator, eh?