The circle of life*

*with apologies to Simba…..

I first became of aware of the Chicago Marathon when my husband and I watched the excellent movie “Spirit of the Marathon”  – just so inspiring. It follows several people (rookies as well as elites like Deanna Kastor) as they train and race the 2005 Chicago Marathon. If you are ever sagging in spirit – this is the movie for you. Totally changed the way I think about us mere mortals and our quest to push our bodies to the limits.  Definitely check it out – it streams on Netflix or Quikster or whatever they’re calling themselves these days.

So they ran the 2011 Chicago Marathon yesterday and two stories from there hit the newswires.

The first one I saw and read has the headline, “Runner collapses at Chicago Marathon, dies”.  Words fail.

My first thought was how awful, how awful for his family, and all those who were supporting him. The heartache his family must be suffering is just unimaginable – especially given his young age and the fact that he has 2 small children. I pray for strength for them all in their grief. News of deaths such as this are often a shock to our systems. While we know we all will experience death – the idea of it being paired with test of endurance and strength always take one’s breath away.  It reminds us that we are simply human and thus simply here for a short amount of time.

And my second thought was – the headline that bleeds always leads. While I am in no way arguing we should diminish this runner’s death, the fact is that thousands more did finish the race to run another day. And my guess is that many journalists who don’t normally cover running events (or even sporting events) are quicker to talk about the negatives. We’re often too quick in this society to try to point out and even shut down the things that seem risky. While that is completely appropriate in cases of unsafe things or environments, it’s a slippery slope. Should everything risky be stopped?  This man was a firefighter – a very risky job. Yet, we don’t stop hiring firefighters. Yes, there are risks with running – just as there are risks with any thing we do – even simply crossing the street. My hope is that most people read this news and while they say a prayer for the family, they don’t leave with the impression that running is bad for you.

A few hours after I read that story, I happened upon the second “big” news story from the Chicago Marathon to hit the news wires:  Woman gives birth after running (and walking) marathon. Okay -that one made me sit up and cringe.

You have the people who think running is bad or dangerous (“It’ll hurt your knees,”  “It’s not safe.”, etc).  But then more often than not, you have the people who think runners are just plain nuts. A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, “Why are there all these people running at 5 in the morning?”  And while I tried to explain to her all the logical reasons why one would run at 5 am, stories like this one sort of fly in the face of all those arguments.

As a woman who has given birth two times – I have to say…..WHAT????  When I had my daughter, I was encouraged to walk around for awhile before the epidural. My husband and I did several laps around the maternity ward – but nowhere near 26.2 miles – and every 3 or 4 steps, I’d have to stop to catch my breath from a particularly bad labor pain.

So for all the women out there I have to say, “Are you completely nuts, girlfriend??”  But as a runner, I have to say, “You’re making the rest of us look like wimps.” But mostly I’m thinking she’s a bit crazy. And I’m thinking that my planar fasciitis is nothin’ but a thing.

In all seriousness… each day many experience the miracle of new life and the grief of a life ended. It is the circle of life and the cycle of being human. The idea that both coincided in the midst of a marathon just underscores the idea that running mirrors life and all its joys and all its pains.