I love running. I've ran since middle school and have recently dabbled in the world of Ultra running. Therefore, runs of 26 miles or more are not unfamiliar (or odd) to me. When you are by yourself for that long there is a lot of time to think. Many times my mind wanders and I find myself cruising along the western States Trail in California. One hundred miles of trail through cool forest and hot red canyons. I am by myself, without care or much responsibility.
On certain days however, the smell of cow manure punches it's way into my nose and brings me back to reality. I live in rural west Michigan. There are no mountains. There is one hill. And my "trail" is a dirt road around a cemetery. But that's okay. I can still get excited about running past corn fields under the crisp moonlight. Animal eyes reflecting the light from my headlamp make farmland seem desolate. I'm still by myself. Quiet. My run. My life.
My watch beeps as I slow to a walk in front of my house. The sun is up by now, at the right time of year. I walk for a minute or so. Then I hear the pounding. It sounds like something is trying to escape. That's when I look up at our front window and see one, two, three little heads looking out at me and hitting the glass with their little hands. Every morning I run. Without fail.
I stand up a little straighter and give a little wave back. I walk up the driveway and all eyes follow me. I stand below the window and make faces. Wave some more. Play peek-a-boo. And even jump up and hit the window back at them. They smile. Giggle. Stare wide awake.
You can probably tell which part of this scene I enjoy the most. Sure, I could run for hours. Add to my medal collection. Travel the world and see and run through some amazing places. Meet some pretty incredible people who, up to now, I've only read about. I could. And yet, there would be something missing.
No red-headed little guy following me up and down the stairs. No little blondie coming out of her room every morning like she's got a pack of Red Bull hidden under her covers. And no three (almost four) going on sixteen year old carrot-top saying "I love you daddy" as she gives me goodnight hugs and kisses at 8:30am every weekday.
No medal can top that. No record or prize money could ever mean the same thing. And if I run (or someday walk) around the same cemetery dirt road the rest of my life chasing phantoms of the elite, that's okay. I have already won one of the best things a life on Earth an give. I am a dad. And I've got three (soon to be four) precious, priceless gifts from God. And that is something far beyond anything I could have ever dreams of.
P.S. Maybe the next time I get surprised with the change to make a "guest appearance" I can write about my wife. Wait, how many pages will this site let me write? Hmmm