Though I’ve run for roughly ten years now, I discovered a major truth shortly after starting: distance cannot corral our aspirations. In the words of Arnold Hano, “There is an itch in runners.” What exactly is this itch though? Perhaps it’s the itch to simply keep going, to keep exploring, to keep uncovering that which was previously hidden on an oft repeated route. Continuing to move is how I might summarize this itch. Runners have a tendency to eyeball the next distance and then charge after it with full force and a grand resolve. In short, that next distance will be conquered.
For the past few days, a colleague of mine has been working on a Rubik’s Cube that we keep in the toy box for noisy or mischievous children (or both). He’s managed to make one side a solid color, but the other five are proving to be both elusive and difficult. I’ve toyed with it some too, but have encountered the same difficulties that stifled his efforts. One step forward feels like two steps back. Speaking of which, since this iconic toy is housed in a running shop, it seems fitting to study the parallels between the cube and my favorite cardiovascular activity of choice. What, if any, are the similarities between a Rubik’s Cube and running?
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the centerpiece of a Jordan ad from August 2016. Crafted by Wieden + Kennedy in New York, the thirty-second spot depicts a determined Westbrook, a man bent on showcasing his remarkable talents with the help of a trusty Spalding basketball. Dribbling to the free throw line in cinematic fashion, a jet engine begins to roar to life as Westbrook touches off the ground with an airport runway beneath his rising feet. The commercial closes with a bold remark from the narrator: “Some run, some make runways.”
I like to think of myself as a peaceful person, a man intent on deflecting tension and maintaining an inner sense of calmness. This tendency is pursued in my relationships with others too, be they personal or professional. The words of St. Paul underscore this aim. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Unfortunately, living at peace with everyone is a difficult undertaking for anyone. Moreover, as a distance runner who frequently traverses the sidewalks and streets of the surrounding cities on foot, I’m constantly jockeying for position amidst the constant presence of automobiles that never seem to cease. Consequently, peace tends to be replaced with discord.
On March 4, 2017, I embarked on yet another 26.2-mile footrace in Albany, Georgia. Restless from a lack of sleep and stomach distress the night before, I still managed to blaze through the quaint city at a respectable 7:21 mile pace. How I felt good in that singlet as the sun warmed my back and a gentle breeze danced through my short hair. Three hours and ten minutes – or less – that was the goal for the day. The finish time? 3:12:26. I thought I would be mired in disappointment as another attempt to qualify for the famed Boston Marathon fell short, but it was a grand day. It was a bittersweet symphony.