Tuesday, July 28, 2009

To run or not to run? THAT is the question!

If you know me, you know I plan trips around endurance activities like marathons and triathlons. It is very healing and emotionally clearing for me to get out there and go long distances especially when I don’t have to plan my own support. This vacation to San Francisco was no different. I knew the SF marathon was on July 26 and put in my request to Melanie that we go during that time. I also knew the race was sponsored by Dean Karnazes, the Ultramarathon Man. I thought, “Awesome, I can run with one of my running heroes.” A few years ago I read "Ultramarathon Man" and it was inspiring. I can relate to the craziness of going long distances, though not like the ones he does.

One of the challenges of doing endurance sports is keeping priorities in order, not in idea but in reality. So the question has been burning since I read it, “How do you make time for family and pursue ultra endurance sports?” That is the question I asked on Saturday to Dean “Ultramarathon Man” Karnazes.

There may be better ways to ask the question to get to my real concern like, “How do you keep peace in your house? Does your wife support what you are doing? What are you doing to show your family that they are the priority over running?” I wasn’t looking for a magic answer to the question, but I was looking for some authentic struggle with which I can identify. Something like, “you know that is a great question and there are conflicts that come up all the time with my wife as to why it is necessary to push to such great distances,” or “It all changed when I started to make money and run for a living.” His actual response made me search deep inside for what is really important, but I will offer more about that in a minute.

Entering the expo hall I began the tweets. Making my way over to the registration table I asked a volunteer if there were any spots remaining for the full marathon? There were still about 30 left. Great, I had time to think. I knew Dean was scheduled to speak very soon so I made a quick pass through the crowd and vendors to the lecture hall. Between speakers I went in to secure a spot up front so I could get a close up look at the man who has run 262 continuous miles and 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. Denise Austin was the next speaker and she did a great job inspiring us to better health and life, but when she was finished I looked back to see Dean was in the house!

It was clear from his body language and his talk that he was uncomfortable speaking to large groups. In fact, his lead in story was how nervous he was when he went on the Letterman Show, who wouldn’t be nervous going on there for the first time? He used the story to build some rapport with the first time marathoners in the room. He built up the whole Letterman experience right up to what he was feeling when he stepped out on stage. Immediately they showed the video of the interview. I could see a real side to the legend. He was nervous standing in front of all of us. It was clear that his comfort zone was running and not speaking. That probably gave me a sense of satisfaction as well because in my mind if I could stand up and talk, I would own the room. Somewhere in the middle of the talk I realized that I would have the opportunity to ask the burning question. Then I thought how about I use it as the deciding factor for my marathon entry dilemma?

The dilemma was not whether I could finish or what time I would be able to achieve. I had resolved within myself to simply join a slow pace group, walk through some water stations, and enjoy the tour of San Francisco provided to me by Dean Karnazes. The heart of the dilemma was that I had resolved to sit this one out and just spend time with the family for this trip. Also there is always a nagging inner conflict anytime I miss a worship gathering on a given week. Many times I have gone to church on Saturday night to be faithful to what I believe God has commanded. It’s not because I think God will judge me, but because it pleases Him and I truly enjoy the weekly celebration of singing together with other believers and learning from God’s Word. So, the thought crossed my mind during the talk, “Maybe he will give an answer that would appease this dilemma in my mind so that I can run with a semi-clear conscience.”

The talk was coming to a close and for a second I wondered if he was going to allow questions… I waited and finally he said, “Does anyone have a question?’ My hand shot up almost in reflex of anticipation. I lost my thoughts for a second, but regained it when we made eye contact. He gave me the nod to ask and I let it out. How does he make time for his family? I wanted to hear him struggle with that question the way he struggled with going on the Letterman show. I wanted to hear some honest conflict or questioning. I wanted him to say what I was feeling then justify his/our actions.

I realize my expectations were a bit unrealistic, and the time allotted for questions was very short so he needed to give a definitive response, but I was still hoping for more. I also decided I would stake my entry in the race on his answer. It was a little $125(entry fee) wager with myself along with a personal gut check to examine my motives for entering the race.

He began his response in a way I never expected and I made the decision almost immediately. He said, and I am paraphrasing, that in every major pursuit in life there are sacrifices that have to be made…

It is true, sacrifices have to be made, but was he really saying that his family was the sacrifice he had to make? He went on to explain his schedule through the week. 3am rise for a marathon before breakfast. Make breakfast for the kids and send them off to school. An early afternoon tempo run was added and he made it home to see the kids after school. On the weekends he leaves on Friday night and his wife and kids meet him at another location for the weekend. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he has probably resolved in his mind how the things he was doing benefit the family and provide for them, but something my dad has taught me is that the only thing you can give that God cannot is your time. I did not hear that he was giving his wife the only resource he can give her. Not only that, but there was no mention of her other than a chauffer for the kids to see him.

So the decision was made. Time with my God and family are not the things I want to sacrifice. I won’t get it right every time, but this time I did. Were there moments that I wished I had run? Sure, but there was no regret of the time spent with Melanie, Tyler, Megan and Melanie’s parents. And certainly no regret singing God’s praise and hearing a sermon on a passage that has been on my heart for a long time. To top it all off I was able to reconnect with a friend I had not spoken with since 6th grade.

That is my story, how I made the decision and the answer you were all dying to hear after the awful cliffhanger I left as my status. Thanks for reading and consider how you are investing the only resource you can invest that God cannot, your time.