Why, oh Why? I Do This Because I am Myself.
When pushed to the limits, the desire and capacity to charge through demands reflection on how you got there to begin with.
My run today was Brutal. Brutal with a capital B, in bold, invisible exclamation marks, cruel, and borderline inhuman.
It did not start that way. In fact, as I embarked west, I flitted across the sand, dancing my stress and to-do list away into a tapered stride. Finally light in mind and breath, I continued, now decided upon reaching the tip five miles out. Nothing that out of the ordinary, until I had to turn around… which is when the misery began.
In that brief outbound traipse, the conditions behind me did a 180 from perfection to gloom, or perhaps doom. Quicksand dislodged the perfect pack, while Moby Dick worthy gales ousted the once gentle breeze. Sudden swells flung debris across the break, obstructing all clean lines except those now of countless cuts across my feet. There was no way around the new terrain except through, which compelled me to repeatedly mutter, “Why do I do this to myself?” into the godforsaken wind.
Running and I go way back, like TLC “James Brown and Michael J” way back, to when I was a kid goofing off with my Dad. We began on the local track nestled between the Northern California redwoods, running in into today’s same Westerly sunsets, in retrospect likely in aims of tuckering me out before bed. From there we moved onto trails and dunes, with the one rule of always turning around at a point with purpose, never aimlessly, and always resolute. Soon after, running converged into a competitive sport, which is where my Mom came into play.
Although I amused myself with the high jump and hurdles, relays and distance, all reason for me to beg for another pair of Nikes, of course, the 800 was my race. Whether I selected it, it selected me, or a zinc-nosed and visor-ed coach somewhere back in Cali needed to fill a slot, I do not know, but what I do know is that I could not have made it those countless deceptive two laps without my mother.
Crouched on my mark, I could always see her out of the corner of my eye, wildly thick black hair and sempre elegant skirt stoic as if also anxiously awaiting the same starting shot we all were. Our breaths collectively held through the ‘set,’ until finally, the ‘go.’ With a singular bang we racers were off, and so was my mother.
First 200m mark, there, just inside the inner lane, cheering me on, skirt and hair now effervescently flapping in the wind. Second 200m mark, back to the start line, bracelet clad arms in the air saying, ‘Go, go, go!’ Third 200, recovering from her own sprints, calling, ‘You can do it! You can do it!,’ as if she also knew this was when the race got brutal. Finish line, “Yes! Yes! Yes!,’ thumbs up, smile wide, and hug ready. That was my Mom, every race, every meet, every year. Man was I lucky.
Today, as I waged this seemingly inconsequential but severe mental war against myself, it finally hit me like that piece of driftwood into my shin…. It is not, ‘Why do I do this to myself?’ as a standalone, but rather, ‘I do this because I am myself.’
I do this to myself because I am myself. I go on mental marathons and emotional sprints, physical contests and visceral adventures. I push myself because deep down I know I can, because further down they allowed me to see that I could.
No matter the conditions, no matter the terrain, it is those cheerleaders like my Mom who still get me through all the miles and finish lines that life presents me. My same mom, who, for the record, prefers a cappuccino to a run every moment of every day, that knew that her cheers of yesterday would become my wins of today, soreness, wounds, and all.