Tag Archives: life

There Has to Be a Lesson In Here Somewhere

It’s August, and already Active.com has come out with an article named “20 Reasons We’re Sick of Summer Running.”

I call BS. No way I’m ready to give up summer yet. And it will be over before we know it, anyway. What’s the rush?

We just got back from up north, where I got in several “firsts” for the year, let alone the summer. One was a 70-mile bike ride that included the entire current length of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail from Bohemian Road to Glen Arbor and on to Empire. The long boardwalk section over the wetland is finally finished, and it has some great views. Even this photo doesn’t really do it justice.

I also enjoy running on the SBHT, and one morning I set out for a few easy miles as warmup to The Legend 10-mile trail race the following day. But just off the trailhead was a dirt trail heading into the woods on my left. I’d seen it before but always had other plans. Another day, I kept telling myself. Well, it was that day.

The trail led through a beautiful stretch of woods, and after about a half mile it got sandy underfoot. Then the trees parted to reveal Lake Michigan, with the trail ending at a short bluff above a short beach washed over by incoming breakers.

What the heck, I decided.

I took off my shoes and slid down the embankment onto the wet sand. I had the beach all to myself, with no people or signs of habitation in either direction. I saw no footprints except my own. How long had it been since the last person had set foot on this secluded part of the beach?

I ran along firm, loose, wet, and dry sand, over driftwood and fallen branches, and through tall scratchy grass. Running on a beach is really different from other surfaces, with its variable terrain and difficult footing. I’ve heard it’s a great workout for balance and foot strength. Certainly it’s not an easy effort; you have to adjust with every step to remain upright and moving forward.

After about a quarter mile the beach gave way to dense scrub and steep slope. I’d run out of runnable real estate, so I returned to the trail. As I climbed back up onto the bluff, I got this bright idea to take a photo of my footprints in the sand, followed by one with the waves washing them away. It would be a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. Really original, right?

Back down to the beach I went and dug in my heels. But time after time, the waves were coming in so fast that my footprints were washed away before I could get a good photo. This was about the best I could do.

So I’m sure somewhere in all this there’s a lesson. Perhaps it’s this: not only is life fleeting and ephemeral, even the attempt to tell a story about it is here and gone before it’s fully told.

On the surface, that sounds pretty depressing. No matter what we do, how hard we try to make an impression on the universe, it all vanishes in a flash. How many stories worth hearing were never told, or told with no one to hear them?

But does that make our lives, or our stories futile? I don’t think so. After all, others continue after we’re gone. If we can make their lives better, that’s something that will carry on, at least. And perhaps far more will be remembered about us, and our stories, than we think.

So live your life. Share your stories. And listen to the stories of others. Whether or not anyone else ever hears them, maybe there’s something from them that will enrich your own.

Thanks for reading.

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More Than Living

Last Friday I was working the registration table for the Trail Marathon Weekend, and a runner came up to get his bib whose last name matched a friend of mine I’ll call Alan. I hadn’t seen him in several years, but I’d been receiving annual Christmas greetings which included his latest adventures.

This runner was not Alan – too tall and too much hair – but perhaps he was family. I handed him his race bib and asked if he happened to be related to Alan. “Yes,” he said. “Cousin.”

“Great!” I said, pleased that I’d hit pay dirt. “Next time you see him, please tell him I said hello.”

Alan’s cousin was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “He’s actually passed.”

Well, that changed the mood pretty quickly.

Alan’s cousin said it had happened recently, a brief, sudden illness. I believed him, of course, but it still didn’t seem real to me. Later on I did a Google search and found Alan’s online obituary. He’d been only a few years older than I, active, running his company and raising a teenage son, and now he was gone.

During the Trail Marathon events I thought about how Alan had actively experienced life and encouraged others to do so. He’d taught team development all over the world and founded a company dedicated to safe, healthy weight loss and sleep improvement. He’d helped me grow personally and professionally; it was an unavoidable consequence of knowing him. And he was fascinated with “off the wall” stuff. For example, he’d attended Tom Brown Jr.’s tracker school, which, he told me, really raised his awareness about what was going on around him, and, conversely, taught him how to avoid being noticed if he wanted.

How do you choose to experience life?

Do you, like me, sometimes get so caught up in daily routines and activities that you lose the awareness that you are alive – living – and forget to be grateful for that gift?

Some people race cars, or jump out of planes, or live in caves, to regain touch with that sense of “alive-ness”. Running is one activity that does it for me. Last weekend I raced a total of 44 miles over 7 1/2 hours through the Pinckney-Potawatomi Trails. It was uncomfortable a good deal of the time, and painful at some, and yet I was there of my own volition, pushing through the discomfort and challenging my limits, and very much aware of my presence in the world at that moment. That’s one thing that Alan, among others, has helped me to do. Rest in peace, my friend.

And the races? Yes, I lived to tell the tale – a tale of ups and downs, dirt, rocks, and roots, a windy lake, and some remarkable fellow runners. All of which will be posted when the last of the photos come in. Stay tuned.