Monday, December 19, 2011

If You're Not Chasing After Miracles, What's The Point?

Going Big

Make your marathon BIG.

It's not just a run.  It’s not just an event, it’s the battle of your life.  It’s you proving yourself,

You are a fugitive trying to make it to Mexico.

You are Jean Val Jean being chased by Javert, with the life of a young Cosette’s well-being in the balance if you don’t get away.

You are Pee Wee Herman, looking for your bike cross country, dashing to the Alamo to claim what is rightfully yours.

You are running for your life, for your worthiness, for all that is sacred and to prove yourself strong enough, fighting back at the history of the voices in your brain, (some your own voice,) but all of them saying you are less than, you are average, you are weak, just a tiny fleck of dandruff on the great scalp of this huge planet…

No,  it’s not just an event, the marathon is a passage, a ritual, it is a spiritual quest taking you to face yourself, asking you to look into yourself, see if you are strong enough, brave enough, and do you have the guts to jump through the ring of fire, fling yourself down the volcano pit and trust that you’ll survive the blast.

At least these things hold true for me, by the way, a marathon is all these things besides just a running event.

 Yes, I'm a sentimental Jack-ass, and all  of this to say why I love the movie Saint Ralph

Michael McGowan, the writer/director of the film, is actually a former Detroit Marathon winner. The story follows angst-ridden fourteen year old Ralph who is seeking a miracle to save his mother from a coma. As Ralph struggles to understand Christianity as taught at the catholic school he attends, he concludes that if he performs an impossible running feat that it might be the miracle needed to save his mother’s life. A priest, cross-country coach, and former marathoner recognizes his running talent and invests in training him. Ralph’s plan is to win the Boston marathon.

Yes, the movie actually address some training issues including pacing, preserving energy, running hills, doing repeats, putting in the miles and fueling yourself afterwards, but it is the spiritual nature of running that guides Ralph and the movie.  Ralph has a naive idealism that drives him which you can’t help but admire both for the insane task of winning Boston as well as saving his mother.
The Director of 'Saint Ralph', winning the 1995 Detroit Marathon

The whole Easter theme of harrowing hell and then ascending to the heavens is played up perfectly with the Boston setting taking place on Easter weekend (which it does again in 2014).  And if you don’t decide to include the song “hallelujah” in your running track after watching the movie, then you probably didn’t connect with the film.

No spoilers, but the placement of Ralph’s Boston finisher medal is a triumph unlike any other. 

I was shooting for a similar demonstration of the miraculous effects of training for and running a marathon in "The Jade Rabbit" which also has a marathon ending that may seem incredulous to some, but to those who have run them and truly tapped in, can’t help but be seen as a veritable truth.

I think when we make the marathons “BIG” like this, when we go BIG or don’t go at all, we get the best out of ourselves. And I’m not talking the ‘beat yourself up if you don’t reach your goal’ BIG, that takes the fun out of it and is a deficit-based approach, I’m talking about all the self-talk you have when the pain and fears and exhaustion hits, and you talk back from deep within yourself saying “I can handle this! I got this”  and then leaving it all on the course. There is no tomorrow.  This has little to do with time goals.

All this, and now I find that I’m looking for some ‘themes’ for my running at this point. Some kind of a narrative to drive me. All my best training periods and marathon runs had narratives, they always parallel some other issue being addressed in my life.

 Some folks have suggested running for a charity, but for right now that doesn’t seem to drive me.   (I should throw in a disclaimer that I have worked in non-profits most of my life, have served the disenfranchised and made less money than the guy who painted the walls of my Masters degree classroom -- and I have done a cancer run, and am planning on a run for a homeless shelter end of 2012)   But I ‘m thinking more of some inner – psyche issue that needs to be battled, I’m thinking Micro and not macro.  I need little demon in my brain to fight, instead of big social demon like access to cancer treatment or fighting leukemia and such.  Maybe that means I run better when I'm angry, or maybe it means I’m just too damn happy right now. It won't be hard, though, since something will  find me and cling to me and I will use my marathon to climb to some incredible heights, or if not, it won’t be for lack of trying.

As Father Hibbert says in St. Ralph: "If you're not chasing after miracles, what's the point?"

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