Ever since experiencing the injury which has kept me from running, I’ve felt compelled―frantically driven even―to regain the ability to run. It’s been quite a quest―one fraught with those darkest of hours. I’m afraid I’ve also done more introspection on the matter than even the most obnoxious of narcissists.
Throughout my self-analysis, I’ve often wondered why it is I need running so badly. Why is it I struggle to find the joy that was seemingly mine for the taking when I was running? Honestly, my needs are satisfied, mostly. All of my immediate family members are healthy, I have a roof over my head, and the bills are getting paid. I have so much to be grateful for. Yet, still I’m unsettled. Indeed, happiness has been elusive. But, that may have begun to change as of last night.
As I was thumbing through the TV channels I stumbled on a documentary on the 80’s heavy metal band Quiet Riot. The theme centered round the band’s decade long struggle for stardom, its rise to fame, the overdose of its lead singer Kevin DuBrow, and the inability of drummer Frankie Banali to reconcile Kevin’s death. I watched as a tortured Frankie tried to describe his emotions―his anger and the depth of sadness at Kevin for leaving him. In his quest for healing, Frankie had to remove himself from the music scene―months turned into years. Then Frankie made the announcement he was finally ready to return to music. When asked about it, he replied almost indignantly, “Because that’s what I do, I’m a musician”. And, that’s when it struck me―the reasons for my own struggles to reconcile my inability to run. It’s been right there all the time.
In my battle to resume running, I’ve come to the realization that we are all hard-wired to do something. For me it’s running. It’s not that I can’t live it―it’s just that without running, I feel incomplete. Not long ago, I was discussing this with a friend from back in the running days. Like me, he too used to run. The difference between us was he’d stopped running for the simple fact, he’d had enough. I think, like others who have chosen on their own terms to quit something, while my friend was empathetic, he was unable to grasp the depths of my despair. Perhaps, the reason is that when a person decides to quit something, he or she has made a conscious decision to do so. When that choice has been made for you, it’s beyond your control. I think, maybe that makes you want it even more―even going as far as to idealize the thing that’s been taken away.
In the case of Frankie Banali, as he mourned the loss of his dearest friend, the music played on for other bands. Their band members could stop playing any time they wanted to. Frankie though, felt his own opportunity had been snatched away, like a thief in the night. Kevin, his music soulmate―the heart of his band―was lost to him forever. Without Kevin, Frankie simply couldn’t play. Meanwhile, as I’ve battled my injured knee, the running scene has continued to press on. I realize it will continue to do so, with or without my presence, as it should.
For the runners who’ve quit running of their own volition, and the vast majority who dabble in most anything (which requires only sporadic commitment), I realize my perspective probably borders on the edge of lunacy. But, consider this―should you wish to, you can go out and do the thing you do, or used to do, whenever the mood strikes you. And, that’s the difference.
Throughout my running career, it’s been an awesome journey―a privilege, in fact―from the struggle to excel, to the arrival at peak physical conditioning, to the countless hours spent training just to maintain that level of fitness. Despite the pain and frustration of having to quit before I was ready, I am still truly grateful. I can now embrace the fact that the higher one climbs, the farther one can also fall. But, the true reward is in the journey anyway, which is why each of us should be striving to achieve the thing which calls out to us. I can attest that when a person arrives at his personal peak, the view is so worth it, however briefly he is able to remain there. Recently, a relative suggested that maybe I should consider giving up on running. Perhaps I should. But, I can’t because I’m a runner, and running is what runners do.