The Penguin Chronicles :: May 1995 :: Running the Bases
On my way to the pool one evening, I noticed a young boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, standing alone at home plate in an empty baseball field. His actions struck me as curious and I found myself so fascinated that I just sat in my car and watched.
He was standing at home plate swinging his arms around wildly. Suddenly, without warning, he bolted towards first base. As he rounded first base, he threw his arms up and ran around the bases waving his fists above his head. At that moment, I knew what had happened. He had hit the winning home run and was running the bases.
His joy was the joy that many of us feel every time we put on our running shoes. It is a joy that is rooted not in PRs but resides deep in our imaginations. Those of you at the front may be doers, and I applaud your accomplishments. But from the mid-pack back, we are dreamers living out a fantasy that is no less real than the fantasy of the boy in the ball park.
I know, as I approach that point in a race where doubt creeps into my mind, that I am running with unrivaled grace. Or at least I think I know. I worked the water table at a recent local 5K and watched with amazement as friends that I knew had been ahead of me the week before PLODDED past. How can this be, I wondered? How is it that I am so fluid and graceful [in my mind] and yet my Penguin colleagues look so ponderous?
My answer may be your answer. I am running in my childhood dream. I am running unfettered by my past indiscretions with food and smoke and people. For the 20 or 30 or 60 minutes a day that I am running, I am a runner. I am skilled and competent. I am relaxed and self-assured. I am all that I ever wanted to be. I am all that I am not when I’m not running.
The lesson I learned, again, from this boy was that it is important to put action into your dreams. It wasn’t enough for him to hit the winning home run in his mind. He needed his body to experience the real sensation of running the bases. It wasn’t until I began to put action into my dream of being fitter, and healthier, and leaner that my body finally got the message. I had often hit the home run of dieting success or saving money or being better in my relationships, but I rarely ran the bases.
I am often asked by well meaning non-runners and some not so kind eagles and sparrows if I get bored running as slowly as I do. My answer is always: NO! How can I be bored when I’m leading the Boston Marathon? How can I be bored when I am locked in mortal combat with the memory of a mean spirited elementary P.E. teacher? How can I be bored when I am running down that junior high bully? After a lifetime of running from, how can I be bored running to??
Not long ago, in the middle of a 5K, I yelled to a corner worker, “Hey, seen any fast runners come by here yet?” He looked at me, and without hesitation said, “Nope, you’re the first one!” I don’t know who that man was, but I know that in his heart he is a Penguin. He knew that for me, as for so many others, the real race is in our imaginations. And he knew, that what was most important was that I was running the bases.
Waddle on, friends.