Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Price of Commitment

For over five years I studied t'ai chi. I learned the Yang Family long form, short form, fast set, push hands; attended t'ai chi camps and workshops; assisted the instructor, read books, bought videos, checked out websites and practiced persistently. But there came a time when I was faced with moving up or moving on. To move up would have required me to drive cross-town in rush hour traffic twice a week and study at the main guy's school. I would need to make a big financial commitment as well as up my practice time.

This decision came just as I began running again, mentally committing myself to finishing a marathon after years of false starts.

So I moved on, ran, and eventually joined Team in Training, completing 5 marathons. And while I still practice t'ai chi, I have decided the level I'm at is the last level I'll reach.

Which brings me back to running. Every setback is a time to examine commitment. Do you renew or fold? This cancer business on top of last year's knee operation, illness, learning to chi walk, tendinitis, anemia and all the hurdles I've faced since September 2008, including misdiagnoses from a hack doctor, have made 'fold' seem not only realistic, but the smart play.
  • Any outdoor exercise must now be tempered by the knowledge that I'm very skin cancer prone. So its cover-up exposed skin and train in the early morning or evening. (Or retire to the state of Washington.)
  • I'm pushing 60 and have sustained a fair amount of damage over the decades from a severe leg wound to broken bones to sprains and torn muscles.
  • Odds are that I'll never again equal where I was physically in 2008. That means I'll probably never qualify for Boston or run Heartbreak Hill.
  • Maybe the point of all these set-backs is not to press on, but to quit before something worse happens.
I'm caught in limbo, unable to sustain a training program that will get me running again and unable to move on. I wish I could let running go and take up cycling or Candyland. I'll be like Chuck Liddell, the Ice Man, who could've eased into training fighters after the Rampage Jackson beat-down, but returned to the octagon, losing four of his next five fights, one of them a knock-out. That's not a graceful exit.

But that's how I'll leave running. Painful as it is to keep starting over, I'm going to need another series or two of smack-downs to prove I'm finished. And I may not believe it even then.

'Cause if I'm not moving on, I'm moving up. Moving on up. Moving on up to the Eastside, to a de-luxe apartment in the sky. From now on, I'll run a dry cleaners.

Wait. Skip that part.

Run again soon, I'm believing.


takineko said...

I don't know what it's like to love a sport of some kind the way you love running-- but is it not nearly as satisfying to just go running with some friends? At whatever your pace?

Anonymous said...

good piece
cover up and run on!

Kate said...

Common sense and your best instincts will have to sustain you in this one.

I tend to feel that if one is meant to run or paint or build a chain of dry cleaning stores, one ought to do so as long as possible -maybe a little beyond 'possible', depending on the level of misery without one's pet occupation to wake up to.

I have received no less than three unrelated shoulder-shaking moments about painting in the last three weeks. Bother the economy: I will keep caring for my two favourite elderly people and paint at night, I guess. I've been told I seem like a lost[mean]soul without the smell of drying acrylics in the house. I have lost some kind of daily, central happiness and and am feverishly making plans to get it back.

Therefore, slowly build yourself up to run like the wind again, someday.

John P. McCann said...


It is not nearly as satisfying, though enjoyable in its own way.

There came a time in running when the mere physical activity began blending into other realms. Pushing mind and body beyond their limits rewrote what was possible in my life. I was never the same afterwards.

I hunger for that challenge again, to go further and see how much I have within me. If I'm unable to rise up and surpass my old goals, it is like a little death. I might need to rewrite what is possible in my altered physical state, but I'll always remember where I was and where I thought I could reach. Serenity and acceptance will come, but not without mourning.

Chatty old me. Probably more answer than you sought.

Isn't sculpting like that? -:)

takineko said...

haha well I don't know if sculpting is like that, but I do love drawing quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

I like the retire to Washington part. It's working for me except I forgot to retire. Your Sis!

John P. McCann said...

But now you've got a mighty garden.