Friday, October 8, 2010

Running and Death (Or Whatever)

Weirdly (or whatever), my thoughts often turn to death while I am running -- but in a good way. When things become crushingly difficult, one of my internal mantras goes something like "I am running for those who can't," and frequently I have in mind my mother and grandmother, who are dead, not just out of shape, injured, ill, or lazy. I like to think I am repaying them in some way by taking my still-working physicality to its natural limits, whatever those precise limits are in that moment.

To be clear, I do not believe mom and granny are "up there" to feel the appreciating and track my minute/mile pace -- if there's an afterlife, they're "down there" if they're anywhere, where by now each would have raised the general level of mayhem -- but the mantra's motivational charge does not depend on their listening in.

The point (or whatever) is this: they're gone, but I am alive and in my present state thanks in no small part to them, and since I have some inkling of how their lives went, and of what they went through to give me this moment, I show my gratitude by striving forward and not giving in. I am, even in the midst of difficulty and pain, very much alive.

Apropos running and death (or whatever), I write this only a brief while after stopping by the 2010 Portland Marathon's vendor exposition, at which I invested in some Zensah shin compression sleeves exactly like the ones pictured here.* I'm hoping that by mentioning them and linking to them, they'll send me several more pairs of their sleeves.

(via The Majesty of Being)

* While my skin is approximately as pallid as the skin shown, my feet don't look like that.


Serah B. said...

Nature is so profoundly wasteful sometimes. So much is lost when a person dies...memories, ideas, the knowledge of a lifetime...Trying to salvage what we can and carry it forward is a very hopeful, humanistic response. I do the same thing with cooking: my mom and grandmother were both prolific cooks, always bringing food for people in mourning or recovering from surgery or whatever, and always welcoming people for dinners and holiday meals. I think about them when I'm cooking for others (which is kind of the exact opposite of running--I'm putting the calories in and you're wrenching them out!) and am very conscious of the fact that I am continuing to bring their hospitality and graciousness into the world even though they're both quite dead. My gratitude to them is my connection to the generations of people who have made me possible, and it's their connection to the future. And I have great hope that my kids will do the same for me after I go.

Dale said...

It's funny how we realize what we learned from someone only after they're gone (I use the royal 'we' here, but maybe you can relate).

While my mom and granny were alive, I would have been able to produce a short, paltry list of things I learned from them. Now I can't see the end of the list, and I am -- many years later -- still routinely surprised to realize that something I am doing or thinking is informed by what they did or thought.

That's how love actually works.

Serah B. said...

I definitely have that experience. I suppose that's one of the functions death can serve since it has to exist--to remind us to be grateful for the people around us and all we are learning from them every time we interact.