If we are running from the past are we chasing our future?
For Thanksgiving this year, we decided to go visit my parents in my hometown in Portland, Oregon. This trip was significant for a few reason in that it would be the first time in over two years, that I had been home, the first time time that my wife had made the trip to my hometown, and the first time that I had been to Portland DTR. See, although I grew up in the outdoors in Oregon, I never spent much time running; rather skiing, playing sports, water skiing, etc. In fact, during the two decades after graduating college, most of my time had been spent as the self proclaimed president of the “I hate running club”. So, the thought of going back to the place were I once was so unhealthy; overweight, on medicine, severely out of shape and be able to go run around the streets and trails of a city that embraces running and vegans, was exciting to say the least. I knew that once my plane touched down that I would be DTR in PDX.
On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up and immediately knew that I was DTR. It was if my body was being pulled out of bed, to go run and to go explore, in a city that is integrated into who I am but also in a city that I do not know via my legs. And if there is one thing I have learned during my time as a runner, it’s that when you sweat with a person or a city, you begin to see things that you would have never noticed before. It’s as if the struggles and the highs and lows open your eyes to people, places and things that you may not have ever noticed while in your comfort zone.
I started the run at Hotel Monaco where I was staying for the holiday weekend, and immediately headed east down Washington street towards the waterfront. As I approached Tom McCall Park, I saw that an organized turkey trot was taking place. It immediately took me back nearly 5 years prior when I had attempted to run a 5K along the same path with no training. During that race I made it probably a tenth of a mile before ducking under the flagging and heading back to the bar where I would be meeting my friends who actually were completing the race. Today it made me wonder what exactly I was ducking away from? Was I running away from the fact that I thought I was embarrassingly slow, was I cold, or was I ducking away from having to realize how out of shape I was in. Ducking away from the reality of allowing myself to take such bad care of my body?
As I approached the Hawthorne Bridge, I decided to cross the river and head east towards my “hood”. When your fat and out of shape, 45 blocks seems like a lifetime. When you put it in your GPS and realize it’s less than a 5K, you realize how we are able to justify not doing the little things that add up to big things at points in our life. I quickly realized how lazy, excuse ridden and full of reasons I was to stay in my comfort zone. It also made me think of the millions that make the same decisions, I used to make, every day. The individuals that are slowly killing themselves on a daily basis with a bad diet and sedentary lifestyle. The people that are playing small in life, not able to win as they are too afraid to lose. The individuals in life that aspire to greatness, but feel that greatness is only achieved by the chosen few.
After crossing the bridge I headed south along the river and past OMSI. I came to a small homeless camp that seemed silent and vacant. I found this ironic since society often views the homeless in this light; without a voice. That homelessness is somehow not a person issue, but a thing. A thing that we can’t make personal, because if we did, there is no way we could justify the way that we treat the homeless. It also made me question if there is a solution. For a city like Portland that try’s its best to embrace all, how do you solve homelessness, when the homeless camp is at the base of your new multi-million dollar pedestrian and light rail bridge? How do we justify homelessness when we create artificial urban growth boundaries that push housing prices up and force people onto the streets?
After hitting the 2.5 miles mark, I turned around and headed north along the east side of the Willamette River, reaching the east side esplanade. It was fun to running along the floating trail a mere inches off the water. The weather was cold with a light rain, which made the water glass like and peaceful. I left the east side of the river at the Broadway Bridge and headed west back over the river and into Downtown.
As I made my way back towards my Hotel, I passed many a restaurant and bars that I used to frequent. It made me realize that even though I had come full circle on my run, my life is anything but a full circle in regards to myself as a person. Many people start running and become Vegans. I became a Vegan and it literally took a cloud off my brain. The clarity achieved allowed me to realize who and what I wanted in life. It opened up possibilities and gave me confidence to sign up for a marathon. Being a Vegan allowed me to run 5.2 miles in 52 minutes, when 4 years prior the thought of running 5 miles would have been an utter joke.
So, to answer my opening question; I’m not chasing my future. I’m making my future. I’m finding my impossible. I’m pushing outside of my comfort zone and in a way running from my past and the person I was never meant to be….