Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wrestling With What Defines Us

I didn’t run this morning.  It was on my schedule, 3 in the morning, 5 in the evening, a nice easy day after a tough weekend.  I felt really good after my biggest week and weekend so far this year.  It was a normal morning.  I woke up at 5:45, checked the weather (on my phone, which is also my alarm clock), 40 degrees and raining.  No real response other than thinking about what to wear.  My closet has a window, the blinds are always closed.  I don’t know why I opened them to look outside, I never do this.  Once I did, there was no getting dressed.  I told myself I’d make it up tonight, but I felt cowardly all day.
Mile 1 from Kings Valley Highway
My penance tonight, was 38 degrees and raining with wind.  That seemed about right and fair.  I took off for the Baskett Slough, with a wind at my back and light rain.  
I was really pleased with my weekend.  16 miles on Friday and 20 miles on Saturday and then a weekend at the coast with very fresh feeling legs.  I ran out and back on Saturday, very close to dead even splits.  As I was coming back on a country road just outside of town, traffic seemed unusually heavy for a Saturday morning.  As I got closer to the high school, I figured out why.  A local high school boy, Charley Engelfried, had died last week while wrestling.  He pinned his opponent, was declared the winner and then collapsed as he was leaving the mat.  He was pronounced dead soon after that, the cause, an enlarged heart.  I was running passed the high school, 15 minutes before the memorial service.  It seemed surreal to be nearly 50 years old, 18 easy miles into 20, running passed those on their way to mourn the death of a 17 year old boy.
The wind was really starting to pick up as I turned down the gravel road.  The ducks are starting to pair up in the Baskett Slough, I disturbed them 2 at a time today.  
Mile 3, entering the Baskett Slough
 The galvanizing force of a child dying is sobering.  Even people that didn’t know Charley, and I didn’t, speak with reverence when talking about “the wrestler”.  As I was running away from the high school, I wondered if he considered himself “a wrestler”?  I ran passed a house where my daughter Jewelia, who was 13 at the time, sold her first violin.  The parents were buying it for their daughter.  She had never played a violin.  The parents didn’t play either.  I wasn’t sure how they would, in any way, evaluate the quality and value of the instrument, so I told them what we payed for it, how long Jewelia had played it etc.  The parents asked if Jewelia would play it for them, she did, and they bought it.  I wondered if the girl still played the violin, I wondered if she ever played it.  I wondered if she considered herself “a violinist”?
A little passed mile 4, Baskett Butte trailhead.
The rain started coming down heavier as I started up the trail to the top of Baskett Butte, and as I climbed ice started to mix with rain.  As the trail turned toward the South, I could feel the wind that would be in my face the whole way home.  At the top of the Butte, the ice in the rain, driven by the wind stung as it hit my face.
Mile 5, the top of Baskett Butte, looking toward home.
It seems there should be a difference between what defines us and how we are defined.  For years, as a child, Jewelia had a hand written motivational phrase pinned on her wall.  “We can’t know who we are, until we know what we can do”.  I don’t know who said it, I’ve googled it many times with no success.  Being “The Wrestler” didn’t define Charley but I hope the hard work and discipline of wrestling helped him define himself.  Music doesn’t define Jewelia, but I know that every aspect of her is influenced by her love and commitment to her music.  Lawyer, father, salesman, artist, astronaut, runner are all just descriptions, aspects of us all.  It’s our pursuit of these things, our finding out what we can do, that tells us who we are.

I planned this run to be hard coming back.  I stopped to take pictures on the way out, with the wind at my back and daylight still in the sky.  Now, with darkening clouds in front of me, and a strong wind in my face I ran strong home. Attacking the hill coming out of the Baskett Slough, checking my watch at the 2 miles to home mark.  “If I hammer it, I’m home by 6:15”.  Tonight, thanks in part to thoughts of my reluctance to run in the morning and thoughts of Charley and Jewelia and everything that defines us, I ran well.  Tonight, I was a runner.

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