Sunday, June 12, 2011

What Running Taught Me About Life

This is a copy of a speech I gave at the Minneapolis Marathon Pasta Party for Team In Training June 4 2011

Many, many of us run for similar reasons…we all have stories to tell…and those stories are often times painful in the TNT family….but those stories that we have… are part of our lives..they are important because it is those stories that make us who we are today.

I was invited here tonight because I have a story to tell and I am honored to share it with you in hopes…that it encourages you…to challenge yourself a little more tomorrow during the race. More importantly, that my words tonight might challenge you a little more the days after that…and each moment after that. If there is one thing that all of us runners can understand…is that a race is not just about race day. It is about training, discipline, commitment and mental toughness. If you are sitting here tonight…and you are racing tomorrow…and you don’t feel that you are good at one of those things…no worries….you have all day tomorrow to get better at it.

I joined TNT the summer of 07 after the loss of my brother Adam to Cancer on November 10th of 2006. I will never forget the feeling that I had the moment that he drew has last breath. I just wanted to run. It was a rather bizarre and intense feeling because I was not a runner. Running was a fantastically boring sport to me. But in the intensity of the moment…my emotion caused me burst out of his house…and all I wanted to do was run forever. I took about three strides and collapsed by a tree and sobbed…it was a moment that never seems too far away and it will be five years ago this November.

I wish I could stand here and tell you the story of his life because he was a fantastic man. He was 11 months 353 days older than me. A newly married man, and an even newer father. We lived the story book lives as neighbors on the Crow River in Dayton, MN. We both were in the construction trades and we were always working on house projects together.

Our houses, the neighbors house, a friends house, it didn’t matter we just loved to work on things…often together. Life was grand until that day cancer entered our lives. Not too say that the nine months that he lived with cancer were not joyful from time to time…but it no doubt changes things. I would love to have the time…to share with you details about hi…and his life…and the adventures we lived…but I have so many other places to go in tonight’s talk..that I have to move on to another chapter.

Just three years prior we went through a similar loss when our close friend and pastor died from cancer on his 33 birthday. His life was so amazing to me. He was a magnetic person that loved to serve others. I connected strongly to Dan Roelofs and it was fantastically sad to see his life end…yet he taught me so many things about life…and as he died, he intentionally used his experience with cancer to teach everyone around him about life. When Dan left us March of 2003… I prayed that I would never have to go thru that experience again but if I did that I would remember the things that I learned as we experienced life to its end with Dan.

As you know, it was only three years later that Adam life was cut short…but I sadly…we knew how we would get through it.

Many of us here tonight have lived through…or are currently living in the shadow of cancer…and as you all well know there is nothing anyone can say to make things better. But tonight I want to encourage you with some simple things that my experience has taught me.

At that point of extreme loss with my brother Adam I was at a clear crossroad in my life.

I had a choice - To continue to live in the shadow of that cancer and his death. Or I could choose to honor my brother’s life and reflect his goodness in each moment going forward.

That is never an easy choice when you are broken. And at times that brokenness seems to come out of nowhere. There is an amazing hole that is left by someone that dies that can never be filled. Time can sometimes be a healer but there are still times that emptiness comes out of nowhere that can overwhelm you like it all just happened.

There is a phrase that I was blessed with as I prepared to speak at my brother’s funeral…You see, he was never one to desire the limelight and he despised the fact that his death would cause anyone pain, yet that was inevitable. There was a common thread between Dan and my brother. They just wanted everyone to be happy.

It is and odd situation when you are caring for someone on their deathbed and their only concern…is for you and your own well being. That is an amazingly unselfish thing! If I could only remember half of the jokes they told as their days grew shorter. Only wanting everyone around to smile and be happy.

It was clear to me as I mourned Adams loss and prepared some words for his funeral. His death was going to change me as a person…and I had a choice.

I could choose to allow the sadness to keep hold and cause me to be bitter.

Or I could honor his wish for me to be happy…thus I would choose for his death to make me better. A concept that I still cannot fully understand, but I knew in my heart …what was…and is the right decision. So the phrase has stuck with me.

“BE BETTER NOT BITTER.” It is a choice I have made not just every day but every moment.

Loosing someone close is a fantastically sad and painful thing. It is a game changer. But consider this for a moment. For one moment…would that person you lost feel good about the fact that your life changed for the worse because of them. Because of something that no one could control. NOT FOR ONE MOMENT. I cannot fully understand how this is accomplished on your own. I fully rely on God above to give me that strength because when Dan and Adam were living in the shadows of cancer…their only hope and strength with in Him. That is how they lived and that is how they died...relying on His grace and power because they knew that they could not do it alone.

I know that that GRACE AND LOVE will more than suffice for me too. Beyond that I fully know and trust that it is my duty to reflect their greatness in my life now that they are gone. Regardless of your circumstance you can never be to good at that….and that is not the important thing…that important thing is if you try…because it is not all about me it is about us….it is about them…it is about everyone I come in contact with from this moment forward and the attitude that I portray.

Always ask the question….IS IT POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE.

Be positive.

These are ideas that I knew to be true in my head but when I joined TNT in the summer of 07…but I was still in a bit of a fog. I was brought up more of a pessimist that an optimist and being a competitive person that causes a ton of challenges in the endurance world.

My first coach for my first event was and is a passionate TNT supporter. I am so thankful for the positive influence she had on my life. A wonderful person… but to me she came across a bit crazy. She was always preaching “positive energy” everything is “positive” “everything is good.” Those were not concepts that I identified with at all…nor was I in much of a positive mood…but as time went on I knew I needed to trust her theory. I had no Idea about endurance sports and my only option was to buy into to her philosophy. I began to pay attention to my attitude and the attitude of others around me. I saw how I was able to finish ahead of far superior athletes simply because of the attitude I had with anything that happened training or racing. I quickly realized that the concept had much more value in life than it did in racing and training.

For example: Did anyone here experience less than perfect weather conditions during you training?

Now if you allowed that bad weather to dampen your spirit and keep you from giving your best performance that day… what did you gain? On the other hand, if you looked at that weather and told yourself, “Race day may be a bad weather day, I should be prepared for that...most people are not crazy enough to be out here…I will have an advantage in this experience…and for nothing less…this is what today gave me….so I will enjoy what I have and give it my fullest effort and encourage everyone around me.” How different would that experience be? Your attitude allows yu to engage your mind and body to be stronger….although I can remember many, many uncomfortable training days…that could not be classified as fun but rather something that I could be proud of for being consistent and committed. I can say that those days did make me stronger as a person and as a racer. I can say that Dan and Adam would be proud of me…and I know they would give anything to experience just one more day regardless of the weather.

In any of my life challenges I remember the seriousness of Adams pain…the reality of his situation..and the smile on his face….the jokes that he told.

Life is full of challenge…enjoy it! Embrace it.

Training is important…the details are important. Anything you do…be it big or small is worth doing to the best of your ability…The attitude you carry as you do anything is important…do it all with joy…regardless of how you feel…regardless of the weather…life is full of joy if you allow it…it is a treasure…you are never alone.

I do not like racing alone..that Is one of the many reasons that I love TNT…Running a marathon is not easy…why do it alone…Life is not easy…why do it alone.

Tomorrow will be hard…good! There will be tremendous struggle…good…you are ready for it…you have been inspired all season.

Run with Joy tomorrow…through the pain and through the struggle…allow the positive things you know flood your mind as you run. Plan exactly what you will think about in different sections of the race. Allow those experiences and memories to inspire your run…and inspire those around you. INSPIRE THE TEAM!

And when you are done…be proud of what you did….not just on race day…but all season long. Look forward to the next challenge in life and inspire others with a positive attitude because after you survive tomorrow…you can do anything!

If you come up short…be positive…never in any circumstance…feel the affect of negativity…it is a waste of time…learn you lesson…keep you head high a… know your race is long …there is no time to hang you head…there are too many good things to do…so many races to run.

You are proud of an amazing group of people that inspire people in the shadows of cancer…do your best…inspire everyone around you…be patient…be strong…and do it with a smile…because you are amazing! What you have done this amazing! What you will do tomorrow…will be amazing!

God belss you tomorrow as you run….but more importantly be a blessing all the moments after that. Life is so worth giving it your all!

No comments: