Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Lesson From Jackie

I went to see the movie 42 today with my son. He really wanted to see it and I was hoping to expose him to the lesson(s) that could come out the story of Jackie Robinson.  After seeing the movie, we sat and talked and I am confident I made the right decision to take him.  I am writing this short post to my son Jaden….in case he finds himself in life needing a reminder…… and to anyone else that might be listening.

I sat through this movie mesmerized.  I love any movie about baseball but this was for very different reasons and honestly my mind was a blur.  I started wondering about the type of person I am today and really hoped that, had I lived during the time period when Jackie Robinson entered major league baseball, I would have been the guy that befriended Jackie Robinson and was accepting of change.  I would like to think I would have been the guy speaking his mind about how the world should work and the guy that stood up against racism.  I really believe I would have been that person. Growing up, while equality among color had made great strides….the world certainly was not perfect.  I was always the guy that tried to make friends with and stick up for the guy/girl on the outside…… it for color or any number of reasons.  I was the guy that wanted everyone to feel accepted and fit in.  Even later in life, albeit somewhat silly, I remember buying a t-shirt from Timberland in Chicago that read “Give Racism the Boot”.  I wore that shirt proudly and in places that might have been considered risky.  Many times I came close to getting my ass kicked but not by white people… African Americans because from afar they just saw a white dude wearing a shirt that had the word ‘racism’ on it.  They assumed the worst until getting closer and actually reading what the shirt said. We would usually just laugh, exchange some words and move on but every one of those many instances broke down the color barrier a little more.

I am thankful today, that my children do not understand racism.  Each of my children has friends of every race and religion and that is all they know.  I have mentioned this before but I literally think my 5 year old daughter is color blind. She does have some African American friends who she thankfully only knows as ‘friends’.  It is quite remarkable but if you ask my daughter to describe these friends, she will talk about what they wear or their sense of humor or how smart they are but she will never ever say they are ‘black’.  Ask her 20 different ways; the color of their skin will never ever be included in one of her replies. It is the way things should be and I hope she applies this to everything in life from color to religion to sexual preference.  We are all just people and if we unite as one, we can make the world a better place.  I really think this is a big part of the message of the movie……for my son and for all of us.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives”
Jackie Robinson

The story of Jackie Robinson tied to racism in the world but if you step back it is really tied to one man helping to change the world.  Look at how far we have come since 1947 when Jackie Robinson entered major league baseball.  Look where the world was then and look where it is today.  After the movie, that is what I sat and told my son. One man made a difference.  One man changed the world.  You are one man, you can do exactly the same thing. Today, the world is not perfect.  We have made great strides in some areas of injustice but there are still a lot of improvements to be made.  There is disease, there is suffering and unfortunately race issues still exist as we have seen by recent events.  We can all as individuals jump in and lend a hand.  We can all as individuals make a difference.  We can all as individuals make the world a better place and, as I have said many times, if we as individuals come together as one with this mentality, changing the world is a certainty. My fight is against cancer.  What is your fight against? There is plenty of room for change in this world.  It is just waiting for you to jump in and make it happen.

To my son and my daughter, may you always treat everyone equally, may you fight for those that are treated less than equal and may you always know that within you is the power to make a difference.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 15, 2013

As most people, I have been struggling with the attacks on the Boston Marathon for the past few days.  On 9-11 I fielded a phone call from my Mom who was very concerned of my whereabouts. I was in Los Angeles but was traveling a lot at the time so I could have been anywhere. On 04-15, I fielded a call from my wife who directed me to the news and as before, I sat teary eyed and stunned in front of the television.  Horrible people doing horrible things………….cowardly attacking the innocent in an attempt to put us in a place of fear.  April 15, 2013 was a bad day for the entire world……..for the human race.  As a runner and as a coach for Team in Training, it was a particularly bad day because they attacked one of the most sacred places in the world………..the marathon finish line.

So many people have shared beautiful words about this over the past few days.  I have shared those words via social media but also want to put my own words to paper for two reasons. Someday there is a lesson for my kids coming out of these attacks and I want my words to be here when they are ready.  My wife and I shielded them from the news of the Boston attacks.  My 5year old daughter is far too innocent and I want her to maintain that innocence as long as humanly possible.  My 8 year old son is aware of the 9-11 attacks but is too young to really grasp all the tragedy that came from that horrible day and I did not want to risk the same about Boston. In a selfish way, I also did not want my son to be afraid to come watch his Dad at his next big race.  Secondly, I want to put my words out there to those I run with and those I have coached. While I have seen a lot of runners respond to the Boston situation from a position of strength, I have also read the posts of folks that express fear and concern of going to their next race and I believe it is critical we move forward not only for ourselves but for the future of running as well…..for that person sitting on the side lines waiting to buy their first pair of shoes…..that person that watches us from afar waiting for the courage to jump in and change their life.

I will not be long winded here.  My thoughts are clear and concise and are as follows:

•The reason we must go on is the same reason that we run and the reason we ever toe the start line of any endurance race.  I have said this so many times…… favorite part about endurance sports is staring fear in the face and shoving it aside. What happened in Boston is horrific. It is angering.  It was meant to insight fear and I do not want us as a community to give in to that fear.

•Running helps to show us all that we are capable of anything.  Every time we put on a pair of shoes….every time we log another mile… changes us.  Every finish line crossed is the culmination of an amazing journey.  I would be saddened to know that any of my friends lose their grip on this and let this part of their life slip away. I have shared the finish line with so many people. As a coach for Team in Training, I have shared hugs and tears at Mile 26.1 of so many races and watched as my teammates hobbled that last glorious 0.1 miles to see their lives changed. I want to see more lives changed because in the end it makes the world a better place.  Runners do amazing things.  The world truly is a not the same without us.

•Endurance sport finish lines truly represent all that the world should be.  It is a place where people from all over the world unite as one.  The finish line knows no race or religion.  It does not care if you are overweight or skinny.  It does not care if you are fast or slow. Whether you finish the marathon in 2:10 or 6:10, you covered the same distance as everyone else on that day.  At mile 26.2, we are not black or white, Christian or Muslim, we are just marathon runners.  Coach Dave Gold, a remarkable Team in Training coach put good words to this earlier this week when he said “We’re all the same at mile 26. Bones and muscle, heart and soul.”

For all of the reasons above, we must continue to go on for those that have yet to experience what it is we know about the finish line.  It is a glorious place on so many levels.  We know this but there are many yet to lace up their first pair of running shoes.  I have seen people begin to run for every reason in the book from meeting people and losing weight to fighting horrible diseases, honoring loved ones and gaining the strength to get off the couch after seeing their spouse murdered in front of them. Whatever brings someone to the doorstep of the running community, they cross the finish line a different person capable of so much more than they were before. This may sound melodramatic but I believe it with all that I am. As I said in my last post SMILE BIG, there are people on the sidelines watching us runners.  They watch and slowly build the courage to jump into the mix.  I have done this myself.  While I did not run very fast, I just finished my first 50 mile ultra marathon. If you had asked me years ago whether I would ever run that far, I would have told you I had no interest. Truth be told, that answer would have masked my fear of actually covering the distance but I sat and I watched as Colin and Billy and Sally and Josh and Ron and Michael and Emily and many others all covered the distance and over time I started to believe I could do it too.  I wont lie, my fear at the start line brought tears to my eyes but I took that first step and ultimately crossed the finish line.  I am different now.  I am more confident about what I am capable of.  We owe this same experience to those sitting and watching us so I beg you to please carry on.  Put on those running shoes and hit the streets and hit the trails and sign up for those races.  You need it.  I need it.  The world needs it.

My prayers go out to everyone impacted by the horrible events in Boston.