Brave Gabe | 06.25.19

I wonder if distance runners think about mortality less than others. Running, they figure, is akin to a superpower. A way to further delay the inevitable. I ponder death on a regular basis. No, I’m not morbid, but I do believe that life is brief. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes,” writes James. Some people simply live longer than others. Take Ed Whitlock. At the 2016 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, he ran a 3:56:33.

At eighty-five years old.

Whitlock died the following March.

Gabriele Grunewald, an elite runner who battled a rare cancer of the salivary gland, recently died at thirty-two. At first glance, Whitlock appears to be the runner with a fuller life based on age, but Grunewald exhibited stunning strength in spite of adenoid cystic carcinoma and the uphill battle she faced. “Being brave, for me, means not giving up on the things that make me feel alive,” she wrote on her website.

I desire to be brave like Ed Whitlock and and Gabriele Grunewald. I’m thirty-seven, but whether I live to Ed’s age is undoubtedly an unknown. A question that I cannot know the answer. Therefore, bravery, as Gabriele notes, means pursuing that which yields life. For me, it begins with serving my spouse and son in a manner befitting Christ. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship,” writes Paul.

Unsurprisingly, aside from spouse and son, running is the cistern I regularly return to for life, for renewal, for zest, for God. I believe running is the catalyst that returns me to the Almighty. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” writes the ancient prophet Jeremiah. I seek him with heart and feet.

I think running in the noisy suburbs facilitates the unease about serious injury. Cars abound, and distracted drivers are a common fixture. Driving to local parks is an obvious alternative, but boredom abounds as the loops accumulate. Ed Whitlock didn’t mind this approach. He ran at Evergreen Cemetery, only minutes from his home, for hours on end. The neighbors are quiet there.

Incidentally, I like running in the local cemetery. There’s no loop, but the experience is peaceful. I have no desire to be apart from my wife and son for many, many, years, which is why I regularly thank God for a safe run. I’m grateful for this life. Still, I’m reminded of Paul. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Photo courtesy of Andrew Neel

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Austin Bonds