Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Memory of Running

I have read a dozen or more books on running, but this one stands out. It speaks to me of the journey of life, of broken dreams, and new beginnings. It's about an obese, sedentary, middle aged alcoholic man who, having recently lost both parents in a tragic car accident, is left alone. He is tormented by memories of his dead sister's decline into schizophrenic madness. She returns throughout the journey and speaks to him and comforts him and angers him. Smith Ide is a broken man. He embarks on a cycling journey initially to shed a few pounds, but the journey transforms into a a search for the meaning of life.
It takes me back to a hospital bed when my own father was laying in palliative care, days from death, each of us with a scotch in hand, contemplating life, talking and listening with reverence. It was and remains a holy experience. My dad asked my opinion of the purpose of life and I replied "It's about the pursuit of wisdom, nothing more, nothing less.". He replied, in a mock Irish accent "Ah, Mikey, your a smarter man than your father before ya.". Later I learned he had asked each of his children the same question and replied in much the same way. It was his way of showing us his love.
As Smithy sifts through his dead parents estate he finds a letter that informs him that his sister, who has been missing for many years, has been found dead in California. Smithy resurrects his old red Raleigh, and leaves his Rhode Island home to California to reclaim her ashes. This is his story. His life unfolds as the layers are peeled back. This is a good story, a sentimental story, but a good one.
It is a story of hope and truth. Smithy is an honest man and an uncomplicated man. Much like all of us. Like Smithy, we run. We run because it is the journey that reveals truth. We run to mask pain. We run to find joy. Simply, we run.
It is a good day to be alive, but you don't need me to tell you that, you already know it.
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