Tag Archives: RunBikeThrow

The Choices We Make – and Don’t

At a writer’s retreat some years ago, I was asked to read a favorite poem. I recited Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Having learned it in high school choir, (where we performed its musical arrangement), I thought I knew something about what it meant. A guy goes for a walk, sees two virtually identical paths to take, chooses the less worn one, “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” but doubts he will return. He reflects upon his choice in the final verse:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“Interesting poem, isn’t it?” our instructor said. “He isn’t saying, ‘I am telling this with a sigh.’ He says, ‘I shall be telling this with a sigh.’ That’s in the future. How does he know that choosing that path will make him sigh, or that it will make any difference?”

While we were pondering that one, he tossed out another. “Notice the title of the poem. It isn’t ‘The Road Less Traveled’ – it’s ‘The Road Not Taken.’ The narrator took one path, but the title refers to the one he didn’t take – about which he knows nothing. And he ‘kept the first for another day’ but then said he was unlikely to ever come back. So what’s that all about?”

"When you come to a fork in the road - take it."

“When you come to a fork in the road – take it.”

He then told us that Frost had a friend who was obsessed about the choices he hadn’t made; he was always wondering, ‘what if I’d done this or that instead?’ So this poem is a jab at that kind of thinking. On the surface, it’s a poem about making a choice, but it’s actually more about the choices not made, and the regret that you can’t go back and make them again.

How often have we fallen into this trap? I sure have. I’ve wasted plenty of time wondering ‘what might have been’ as though I might be richer, or more famous, or have more free time (i.e. somehow happier), if I’d made certain decisions differently.

I could have married a different woman (or remained single), or made different investments, or chosen a different career, or bought my dream car 20 years ago, or done any number of other things. But why I should sigh over any of that? How do I know my life would be better or not? Such thinking devalues the blessings I have from making the choices I did – my family and friends, and the fulfillment I get from my job, running, Aikido, and other activities.

What “makes all the difference” is how we build on where we are right now. That road is always available to us. And if a different life vision appeals to you, then I agree with Joseph Campbell: Follow your bliss, and don’t be afraid. But no empty regrets.

Happy New Year!

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P.S. For an interesting twist on the subject of choices, I recommend Roads of Destiny, a short story by O. Henry, which should tell you it won’t be ordinary.

Would You Run a Litter-Free Race?

This morning I ran the Wicked Halloween 10K in Plymouth, one of the Kona series of races that I volunteer for as a pacer. It’s a nice change to enjoy being part of a race without busting a$$ trying for a PR. And at the end you’re encouraging people to pass you. How fun is that?

Wicked pacers.

Wicked pacers.

Despite a chilly start, I enjoyed the event. My regular pace partner, Mike, and I breezed through our 52-minute assignment, and everyone there seemed to have a good time. A typical well-run local race, and I wouldn’t have anything to contribute by way of improvement – except for the cups scattered along the roadside at the water stations.

Races generate large amount of trash from cups and disposable water bottles. Most is handled through numerous trash cans and boxes throughout the area, and runners by and large are good at putting trash where it belongs, with one exception.

On the race course itself, runners typically grab offered cups of water and Gatorade without stopping, gulp them down on the run, and then throw the cups on the road, or off to the side. This is standard behavior, and if not ideal, is accepted and is dealt with through lots of volunteers. During the Chicago Marathon I even saw people standing at the aid stations with brooms, sweeping the trash off the road whenever they could. But I still had to step carefully at many stations to avoid slipping on cups, sponges, and other debris that 35,000 runners discard over the course of 26.2 miles.

Water stop at the Berlin Marathon (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Water stop at the Berlin Marathon (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Two recent experiences changed my perspective. At Run Woodstock, some runners left cups and other trash by the flags on the trails, where there were no volunteers to see it and pick it up. Then a recent post of the French Word-a-Day blog covered the subject. Kristin Espinasse, the author, writes about her experiences as an American married to a Frenchman and raising a family in France. Her husband recently completed his first triathlon, and look what happened: (excerpt edited)

Nearing [the finish line], Jean-Marc needed to dispose of one of those energy gel packs. Approaching one of the race volunteers, he flashed a winning smile and pitched the plastic tube to the side of the road. [A] race official, standing nearby and seeing the tail end of the exchange, held out a yellow card. Jean-Marc was sanctioned for littering!

(Read the entire article here to see the outcome.)

This is the first time I’ve heard about penalizing runners for littering during a race. But a little online research turned up a few efforts to minimize and/or eliminate race litter. For example, check out this article from the Mother Nature Network that describes what some marathons are doing to address the amount of waste associated with their events. And here is a video of a zero-trash water station at the Circular Logic Marathon, where every runner uses a refillable water bottle.

Circular Logic Marathon video

Have any readers been part of a “no-littering” race? What do you think of the idea? Would you support it? Please try the poll below, and/or comment – I’d like to know your thoughts.

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P.S. The next race in the Kona series is the Chocolate Run on November 17. Hot chocolate, scones, chocolate chip cookies and premium Chocolate Fountain Fondues along with music in historic downtown Plymouth!

P.P.S. In addition to her posts, Kristin takes amazing photographs of French life and the other places in Europe she visits. Consider signing up for her email newsletter.