I'm running 50 miles on Saturday, May 17th. I don't think I would have ever put “50 miles” and “I'm running” in the same sentence six months ago.
Since December, I've wanted to do this. I could offer so many reasons why and why not. But ultimately, you should know that I'm not doing it to burn off 50 bananas. And I'm not doing it to prove that I'm a runner. I was a runner the first time I showed up at Hollywood Run Club and ran three miles down the boardwalk next to Neta Shani, who talked my ear off the whole way about trying to buy a car after moving from Israel to South Florida. I listened and tried not to pass out, and pretty soon we'd run 3 miles. I was pretty amazed at how the whole thing just happened beneath me while I was trying to focus on his description of the car dealership. I went back the next week, and then the next, and pretty soon every Tuesday and Sunday. Running became a way to push myself while building connections with people, not setting myself apart.
I kept running because it built a tunnel out of an old life and into a new one. In the old life, there were moments where I thought I was confident, but in retrospect, I was compliant and probably defensive. I was complying with the standard set for me, failing to show my true self. Failing to be authentic. I felt unquestionable, and that felt like confidence.
Running marked an exit from a compliant, unfulfilling lifestyle toward a life I began to create and drive myself. I'm still building that life. I will never look back. The rearview mirrors are there only to reflect on how far I have gone. Running isn't everything, but it is something that showed me a new culture of people unafraid to try, fail, and grow. I found a home among them, and within them the idea that this one life we are given is a process and a journey, not a job or a debt owed to anyone.
So here I am, ten days from my first 50 mile race. There is something mesmerizing about that distance. In Alabama, where I grew up, it was 50 miles to the Tennessee line where we could buy 40 oz beers. 50 miles is almost two marathons back to back. 50 miles is a whole day of running, and there is nothing like a full day of entirely one thing.
50 miles is the ability to get lost in running and not compartmentalize the day into beginnings and endings, artificial narratives. 50 miles is a poem – a lyrical, unshaped, and un-boundaried span of time where, at some point, the beginning will be forgotten and the sense of finish will be lost. It is not a story: Stories leave things out. Stories are organizations of lyrical moments. Lyrical moments are the bullets that shoot through the mundane and leave light-beams of the magnificent shining through. They are pathways to authenticity.
The more I've opened myself and expanded my willingness to try and fail, the more I've found these lyrical moments shooting lightbeam-bullets through the carapace of self-protective identity. This same carapace that protects you from pain and toxicity also shields you from joy and love. The answer I've found is not to toss this shield in the trash, but to remain porous and strong at the same time, and to surround myself with strong enough love that I can be vulnerable to failure and therefore able to expand my limitations. I wrote, before, about how no man is an island. I still believe that what you bring to the table independently is only part of what creates your experience. The charge and light of others carries me forward when my limits creep in. What does all of this convoluted mess really mean? It means I want to run 50 miles because I believe it builds some kind of system inside me that isn't afraid, and that system will make me a better, stronger person.
When I write about the Keys 50 the week after the race, I will tell you a story. I will leave things out, because that's what a story does. But inside the race, and inside the time I'm running, it won't be a story. It will be a lifetime. I will sweat. I will hurt. I will laugh. I will, at some point, lose the ability to think straight. That's okay. I will, at some point, cease being conscious of myself and the thing I'm doing, and begin to fully do that thing without awareness of it as separate from me. I will flow.
I'm running 50 miles next Saturday for love. For myself. For my heart, for my friends who have held me through the hard and the good, and for the ones who have let go and gone down other paths. I'm running because I love my father and all his sacrifice. I'm running because I love my brother and the way we are both growing up and not being jerks as much. I'm running to strengthen my mind so that I can be a better friend, a better partner, and a better human. I'm running 50 miles for the idea that you can do anything you decide to do, as long as you believe that and keep yourself in the sphere of others who believe that, too.
Thank you for believing in me and reading this. Wherever you are on May 17th, may you find your flow as I find mine on the road between Marathon, Florida and Key West.
I'll see you on the other side of 50 miles.
Where To Catch Me