The Starting Line

An ironic admission:  I don’t like blogs. There are too many of them, and all-too-often degenerate into pedestals for punditry, rant, and unvettted  journalism.  If there’s a cultural phenomenon I associate with blogs, it’s the idea that having a captive audience doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility not to report mundanities; or the obligation to know the difference between ‘they’re,’ ‘there,’ and ‘their.’

However, this isn’t to say that all blogs suffer the same ailments. They have become a means of near-instant communication and interaction in a world, empowered by modern communications, more comfortable connecting its inhabitants for the briefest of physical moments before sending them back out amongst their far-flung destinations and origins.

Enter me, and the story which trails behind, aside, and in front of me.  For those reading who don’t know me (and as of this writing I think that would number around zilch) I’ve been a competitive athlete since the age of 15. On and off for the past 17 years, I’ve competed in a variety of endurance activities, to include duathlon, triathlon, and good old-fashioned running.  This isn’t to say I’ve done any of them consistently for the past 1.7 decades with the one exception of my time running as an intercollegiate; rather they’ve been periods of serious punctuated by months of something else.  I always trained hard enough to be regionally competitive but never anything beyond that. When I wasn’t in a Serious Training Mode, it wasn’t because I was sitting in front of the telly crushing bags of chips. Usually it was because my job made it impractical for a period of time or because I  was focused on another activity.

The common thread throughout it all was running. Whether it was a means to an end (fitness for something else) or the end itself, I’ve always viewed myself as a Runner. In the past two years, I’ve experienced something of a revival (“renaissance” would imply something far too grand). Living in Tucson, I hooked up with Dave and Michele Hill’s Grinders, a dedicated bunch of serious runners of all ability levels. Under Michele’s guidance, I’ve gotten into the best running shape I’ve been in since college.

But as I’ve put in the countless hours and thousands of miles in the past months, I’ve begun to question my motives. Here I am, in relentless pursuit of something, usually a specific time I want to run over a specific distance. Really? Is that it? I spend all this time, make all these sacrifices, all in the name of something that won’t break any records, won’t get me on the podium, won’t even get me in the top 10% of my own age group peers in the country. Last October, I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon. My bottom-line goal was to break 1:20 (roughly 6:05 pace for 13.1 miles).  I accomplished that goal, running 1:19:19 (6:03 average pace), placing 37th overall. That might seem pretty fast to some, but let me put the performance in perspective. 1:19:19 put me in roughly 75th percentile. That means out of all the men out there at my age at the time (32), I was slower than 25% of them! In academic terms, I got about a C+ on that test. Even more humbling – world class runners will cover the same distance in about 60 minutes…amazing.

There is clearly no doubt about my place in the pecking order.

I’m not discounting the pursuit of potential. AB-solutely not. But the single-minded pursuit of excellence has a cost. There is sacrifice in the ten plus hours a week I spend running. If you think about it, ten hours is a lot of time. You can fit a lot of quality family time in there, self development, or even rest and recreation. Lots of things you can do with that chunk of seconds, minutes and hours.

And I’m starting to think that if I’m going to make that sacrifice, maybe it would be good to associate it with something in addition to personal aspiration.

So, I’ve got A Plan. This Plan will tie my running to charity, although I’m still trying to work out the details. This blog is my Start Line (and race course if you want to continue the metaphor). It’s way of telling folks, “Folks, I’m going to do something here. It probably won’t be big. It probably won’t be terribly pretty. But it will make a difference, if only a small one.”

I’ve got a non-profit picked out, as well as a concept, but I’m already up to 765 words and probably exceeding blog-a-bility. So, I’ll save it for the next entry.

2 responses

  1. Matty, I think you’re being too hard on yourself. At Long Beach there were 600 men in your age group and only 9 of them beat you. Top 2%! Keep up the good work.

    Like

    • That’s funny – I just had this conversation with my wife about being too hard on myself…but I keep telling her I’m just being “realistic.” 🙂 Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment, brah…

      Like

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