Saturday, November 1, 2014

An Open Letter to Scott


I first met you in 1994 when we were playing football at Siena but I feel like I’ve gotten to know you more in the past few months than I did in the past 20 years.  I’m guessing you will probably say the same thing about yourself.  The movie Dodgeball makes the joke that “Dodgeball doesn’t develop character; it reveals it” meaning, I guess, that the game won’t make you a bully but if you were already a bully, everyone else would know it by watching you play.  Distance running is the opposite.  While the road is merciless in pointing out your weaknesses, it will also take care of you.  When you return home, it will pat you on the back and promise tomorrow will be better.  The thing is, the road doesn’t change; it’s concrete.  That means it must have been you that is better.
Right after Siena cut its football program in 2004, you and I started speaking more via e-mail.  When the effort started to tank, I sent an inflammatory e-mail to the person who was in charge of the effort and included the entire group on the e-mail.  I’ll never forget your response: “You’re an ass but I love it!”  At that point, I realized we were more similar than I knew.
When you told me you were going to run the marathon earlier this year, I started laughing.  You said something like “are you laughing because you tricked me into joining the pain?”  But I was laughing because I knew you were going to run before you signed up, maybe I knew even before you did.  I had had a conversation with my sister about a week before and I said “Scott’s going to run New York this year.”  She asked if you had signed up and I said, “No.  But he’ll find a way.  He’s going to run.”  There was something in our e-mail conversations that told me there was a question in your mind and in your heart that you wondered if you could do it.  I recognized it because it’s the same question that got me to run my first marathon, too.
I’ve always told people who are thinking about running a marathon that it’s really two marathons, the actual day of 26.2 miles but also the marathon of training that leads up to that day.  I watched you set out on that first part of the marathon at first with concern and a little skepticism.  It’s a long path to Fort Wadsworth and life continues to throw roadblocks.  While I believed that you wanted to do it, I wasn’t sure whether or not you’d get there.  Then I watched as you started to stretch your distances, entering into races and then finishing half-marathons.  Even better, I watched as the app on the phone continued to post distances on Facebook that were farther and farther as we got closer and closer to the Marathon.  For a while now, I’ve known you can finish the Marathon.  You’ve put in the distance and spent the time and tomorrow you get to show everyone else and yourself.  Trust your training.  It’s got you here; your training and your heart will get you through this.
You posted a beautiful piece yesterday about your little girl carefully watching you as you prepared to head to Manhattan.  She’s been watching you this whole time.  She’s learning more from you than you know.  Someday, your daughter is going to see a big, seemingly insurmountable task of some type in front of her and from somewhere inside she’ll find reserves that will get her through it.  She may not realize where these reserves came from but she’s learned that from you.  As we go along in life, we find that contests aren’t always won by the fastest or biggest or strongest.   Sometimes they are won by that one person who refuses to quit.  Sometimes the day is won by the person who feels the pain, embraces it and goes on anyway. 
Last year my wife was very pregnant with our twins, so pregnant that she wasn’t able to attend the race in person but instead tracked me through the internet.  I had taped a few messages to play on my iPod when I was going through rough stretches.  One of them said, “Don’t let your kids be born having a Dad who tried really hard and almost finished the marathon.  Let them be born being able to say ‘Yes.  My Dad did it.’”  Give your little girl that same gift.
Marathon Sunday is an amazing day.  While you’ve probably been accused of having multiple personalities, on Sunday you will actually be 3 separate people.  The first person is the one who will be standing nervously, waiting with the amassed army waiting to cross the Verrazano Bridge and invade Brooklyn.  He’ll be unsure of what’s about to happen and may be thinking about your past.  This person is full of self-doubt.  The good news is that the second you step across the start line, this person ceases to exist.
Stepping across the start line is the 2nd person you will be on Sunday.  This person is filled with audacity. He’s actually crazy enough to think he can run 26.2 miles all in one day.  He knows that what he carries inside him is exactly enough to get him across that finish line.  He’ll be constantly tested.  Previously, these challenges may have been enough to discourage or dissuade him but they’ll be sorely disappointed if they think they can do that to him today.  Today, he is unstoppable. 
Sadly, that person won’t make it through the day.  That person ceases to exist after 26.2 miles as you step over the finish line.  Then you become the 3rd person you’ll be on Sunday.  This is a man of accomplishment.  This is a man of confidence because he has proven he can overcome obstacles.  This man has stared a dragon in the face and slayed it. 

This person can accomplish anything.

I’d like to start the race and run it with you but it wouldn’t matter.  Me being out there would mean nothing because once you are out there, it’s all about you.  You are all that matters.  I’d love to be there when you finish but I’m not sure that I’d recognize the man you are about to become.   The marathon is mythic and magic; it’s a transformative experience. For better, you will never be the same person after Sunday.   I know this is true because it happened to me. 
I’m impressed with how far you’ve come.  It’s so easy for us to sit back and talk about the “Glory Days.”  A lot of people don’t seek out challenges like this.  They are content to say I remember a version of me that may have been able to do this rather than see if that version of me is still alive inside of them.  I can’t wait to see you after the Marathon is done.  You’ll be waiting some time as you took the whole “Under 5 Club” thing literally and that is a goal I’ve yet to reach.  

Course, there’s always next year…

With much love,