Half Marathoner

Elana and I finished the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this weekend! 

For me, it was an interesting last minute decision to actually run at the event. I’ve been enjoying running more lately, and had therefore been doing a lot of the training runs with Elana as she was preparing. And a lot of other people from Hattiesburg were also training. I had sat back and just watched once before when a lot of people I knew were training to run, and suddenly it hit me that something similar was happening again…

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was telling myself, “Oh, if I wanted to do this, I know I could do it.” And, as it turns out, that was true. The problem was that I was letting that thought prevent me from ever actually doing anything. 

And I realize that this wasn’t just about running. It’s a bigger theme that underscores my life. There are a lot of things that I’ve essentially talked myself out of doing by thinking that I could do them if I wanted. What I’m finally starting to realize is how ridiculous that truly is. There is a huge gulf between the potential to do something, and the reality of actually doing it. Not fully comprehending that difference is one of the things that has kept me, physically, in Mississippi my whole life, and metaphorically prevented me from achieving much more with my life. Running in this half-marathon has helped me to really understand that difference. Thinking is one thing. Doing is another. Doing matters:

Amor fati, then, captures Nietzsche’s highest value: maximally affirming life with full understanding of its tragic dimensions. Suffering and adversity, instead of being avoided, should be crafted for practical advantage. Abundantly healthy spirits respect the order of rank based on merit, cherish opportunities for self-transformation through struggle and rich exertion, seek personal challenges from motives of joy and love of life, and scorn cowardly hopes for transcendental salvation. This life is my only life and if I confront it with aesthetic creativity and a full heart it will be quite enough… And during their self-transforming, enthusiastic contests, as countless endorphins flow giddily within them, marathoners can bay “amor fati” at the skies. We can imagine Nietzsche laughing. – Raymond Angelo Belliotti in Running and Philosophy

This life is my only life. Potential only gets you so far. Running, a sport that I thought I truly hated only a few years ago, has taught me one of life’s most important lessons. It’s time to truly do life.

Which brings me to the other thing of value that I have long known, but which this 1/2 marathon has helped to remind me: the value of good friends.

In the back of my mind, I’ve always thought that it’s a little bit silly to pay a bunch of money to participate in an event when we’re almost running the full length during training anyway. I know I asked Elana at least once why we didn’t just run the full amount of miles on the Trace and call it a day.

However, actually running at the event was an awesome experience. The streets were filled with people cheering and supporting the runners, and so many friends were there with the same goal. It was a great experience to gather afterwards and celebrate by drinking a few beers with friends. I also made the decision to run the entire race with Elana, and I think we were able to push each other. Having her there next to me the whole time was really awesome!

It was more than a novice athletic achievement, it was a journey of friendship, the healing power of sport, and the confidence of achieving a goal I once considered reserved for those with more talent and resolve. It was a reminder that with good company and hard work, regular people can do something special. And it was special. – Kristin Armstrong, Runner’s World

Having friends and loved ones who can push you and inspire you to achieve more in life is an absolutely necessary part of the good life, as they help us see who we truly are and thus improve ourselves, as Aristotle explains:

… whatever it is for whose sake [men] value life, in that they wish to occupy themselves with their friends; and so some drink together, others dice together, others join in athletic exercises and hunting together, or in the study of philosophy, each class spending their days together in whatever they love most in life; for since they wish to live with their friends, they do and share in those things which give them the sense of living together… the friendship of good men is good, being augmented by their companionship and they are thought to become better too by their activities and by improving each other. – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Cheers to my fellow runners!

For further reading:

Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind (Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture)

The Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World's Classics)


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