Weekend report: Hills, rain and a graduation

My quads were burning from the hills and my fingertips had started to wrinkle from the constant rain. When my 12-mile run began, it was warm, humid and cloudy. After 10 minutes, a light drizzle started. It felt great. So did those first three miles. Then it started to rain harder. The humidity was high and my route was perhaps a little bit more challenging than I was ready for. Why did I choose these hills today? Why did I continue my run in the pouring rain? Is it because I’m an idiot? Or completely insane?

After Mile 4, I crossed path with several other runners of varying paces, offering a knowing smile and a cheerful good morning. I’m not the only one, I thought. There’s something satisfying about getting the work done, about putting in the miles through inclement weather. Sure, at points the run was miserable, but making myself suffer wasn’t the point. To be honest, as difficult and as miserable as parts of the run were, I was actually enjoying myself. Yes, that’s right. I was having a little bit of fun out there. My secret? Knowing what my intention was for the run.

This was a long run. I wanted to make it a hilly run at that. The purpose was to get in the miles and work the hills. This wasn’t going to be a fast run. Wasn’t going to be pretty. It was going to be about playing in the rain, challenging myself and putting in the effort. Mark came looking for me in his truck to make sure I was OK, and said my brand new bright orange running shorts were visible at quite a distance. Excellent. These shorts were a gift to myself, a reward for challenging myself by participating in the Seneca 7 relay and the Allegany Adventure Run. On a symbolic level, having my reward for personal accomplishment visible at great distances was pleasing, encouraging and entertaining. Yes, I was heavy into the metaphorical on this run, which was a pleasant change of pace from my hallucinations where items in the distance look like people doing all sorts of unusual things.

The end of the run wasn’t so much about joy as it was about satisfaction — about knowing that I pushed myself just a bit further. Something changes when I reach another milestone, push another limit, hit another tough workout. Sometimes, I don’t know exactly what that is until race day, but I know that my being is forever altered. I’m a bit stronger, a bit wiser and, though tired and sore, a bit happier.

Perhaps I was able to push through Saturday’s workout better because I knew that Sunday would be my rest day. Then again, it wasn’t just a rest day. It was a day of celebration — my younger brother received his master’s degree from Syracuse University.

Besides the fact that my brother is painfully smart (the kid read the encyclopedia for fun) he is also phenomenally talented when it comes to researching and writing. Once-upon-a-time he was a sportswriter, like me. Only for a variety of reasons, he left the business and the alleged security of a full time job to return to graduate school. There were plenty of reasons to characterize this as a risky move, but the only reason that mattered was the reason why he chose to change his path — he followed his instincts and his passion. This weekend was his “commencement,” the official rite of passage for him to begin the next phase of his life. But he already commenced with that the day he decided to leave newspapers, take on a student loan and become a full-time student, husband and father.

Now, he’s moving on to work on his doctorate with the desire to teach journalism and media studies to a new generation of students. But he’s already taught me a valuable lesson — that nothing is impossible if you follow your heart.

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