End of innocence

With a heavy heart, I pressed the digits on the keypad for my garage door and headed out for a run.

And as I made my way down the street, I struggled to find the right words to justify the fairness or sense in the pain many friends are feeling: one of our own was the innocent victim of a very tragic accident.

On a few occasions, as our circle of friends intertwined, Dave Hawkinson and myself crossed paths. They were friendly and pleasant encounters, and many of my friends recall him as a terrific person. He was memorable and made a positive impact in many people’s lives.

Unfortunately, he died after a car struck his bicycle on a rural stretch of highway near Grandin, N.D., on Saturday. You can read the story here. By all accounts, Dave had done everything right. He couldn’t have done anything differently. And cyclists will continue to ride that stretch of road.

My thoughts and prayers are extended to his wife, Amy, and family, and those who knew Dave much better than myself. He was a light and gift to those who knew him, and his legacy will serve to making many people better off for knowing him. My heart aches for those who knew Dave well.

Tonight, like many other outings on the run, it became painfully obvious: so many people behind the wheel of their vehicles are driving distracted. In two- and three-ton vehicles. And it’s clear that so few people really stop to think about what it is they’re doing, and how life can change in an instant.

Perhaps runners and cyclists understand this better than most.

We have to share the road with others, especially those in steel boxes with wheels. And maybe that’s why I always wave, in gratitude, to those who are willing to move over and give me a few extra feet of space on the road. They may do it out of courtesy, or because there really isn’t much room. Yes, I always try to hug the side of the road, because I’m going to lose the battle every time with a vehicle. But I want to let passing motorists – at least those willing to grant me some space – that I appreciate the gesture. At the same time, though, I can see those who are are looking down at their phones, reading or writing texts, or chatting without paying attention to the road. Or fumbling with their sunglasses or too engaged in conversation with others in the car. It is all too obvious that most people are simply not that attentive to driving.

The simple truth is that there’s almost no way to avoid encounters with drivers. We all make choices. Drivers decide whether to allow themselves to be distracted on the road. Endurance athletes can mitigate the risks, but ultimately, must choose whether the risk is worth the reward. We can’t live in fear of running or riding the roads, but we can educate others about the consequences of distracted driving.

Working on a rebuild

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

Just a few short weeks ago, I was struggling to run. Every time I stepped out the door, it was a reminder how much everything hurt.

While I was at a loss to explain the constant muscle soreness, I knew there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. I believed there was light at the end of the tunnel, especially after an MRI showed no bone or muscular damage.

Since the medical tests, which I feared would show up a stress fracture, I have been able to resume a better routine. At the start of June, I pledged to run as frequently as possible, even if the mileage was meager compared to previous years.

Frequent runs reinforces that it takes effort, commitment and discipline to be a runner. Our sport offers a steady diet of trials and challenges. The reward, though, is life defining.

As I’ve returned to running regularly, I’ve found the struggle in working through constant injuries – a strained left hamstring and an arch that provides doubt that I ever knew good running form. Those aches and pains seem to come and go, but they’re slowly getting better. I’m running through those issues, as odd as it sounds, and I’m able to do it because this sport has helped me better understand myself and my body. There’s a fine line between something that hurts (and, consequently, will get better even without complete rest) and a life-stopping injury.

Along the way, I’ve enjoyed the 30 Days of Running campaign for June, and I’m committed to running every day. Even though I messed up my streak, I told myself that the streak can just start again. One day, to keep the streak going, I headed out in the rain. It had been a long time since I’ve run in the rain – and the pure, simple joy of doing it made me feel like a kid again. And I’ve been joined, on occasion, by Coby, who is nearing 11 months old.

So, while I’m working on rebuilding myself as a runner, I am learning to run again – from form to fun. As the summer arrives, and offers plenty of warm days, I am hopeful this rebuild will lead me to some memorable places – physically, mentally and spiritually. And come Nov. 2, when I’m standing among the masses at the New York City Marathon, I will know that I am ready.

Road to recovery

“I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life.” – Susan Sidoriak

The morning dew settled in heavy drops on the tall grass, glistening in the sun as it crested above the horizon. The trees and greenway offered a silhouette as I ran into the morning.

My road to recovery – each day offers a varying degree of improvement from the spring – is reinforced by blessings such as a perfect June morning. Few people are stirring about so early, even fewer find the motivation to start the day by running or biking.

The goal, for now, is to simply run. Put on miles, slowly build up my endurance, and avoid the injury bug. There are flashes of a goal within a goal – to run every day this month as part of the 30 Days of Running campaign, on my way to training for the New York City Marathon. These goals lure me to create a better version of myself.

Another enticing goal is the Wolf Pack Relay, an intriguing event in Moorhead in which teams of runners take turns running 5K routes. It is a unique twist on a relay event, and is replacing the 81 for 81 event from recent summers.

There are other milestones I’m aiming to complete. My legs are feeling better, but I still need to build up tolerance and mileage. An achy ankle and sore hamstring have me yearning to run injury-free.

It helps to spend time on a bike, too. I rode a few times last week, including a hard effort on Saturday after a morning run. The next day, I set out on foot again for 11 miles. At times, I wonder how it could be this difficult, or whether it was ever easy.

But then I’m think about this morning’s perfect run. And think that tomorrow, on the National Running Day, can be another great day to run.