Thanks!

Yesterday was a big day.  In December I wrote about running, or more specifically how running is important to my sanity as well as being critical in my desire to eat more pizza than salad.  At the end of the post I asked for help raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society as I prepared to run the Carlsbad Half Marathon.  There was a great response, and I was able to meet my fundraising goal –  so a special shout-out goes to my Mom, Royce, Dan, Ron, Linda, Lee and Valerie for their generosity.  It was a great motivator to get out and pound the pavement for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning!

The race went well.  It wasn’t too cold, and a gossamer veil of clouds kept the sun from baking us as it rose.  It was really a great experience to join up with 8,500 or so new friends and go for a genteel run along the coast.  There were bands playing and lots of volunteers handing out water and sports drinks and snacks and whatnot, and the overall feel of the race was really positive.  We started off after a Camp Pendleton Marine sang the National Anthem (and she did a great job!), and it was heartening to see so many people having such a great time.

The course is an out-and-back, which means that you run out to a turnaround point and then head back to the finish line – which is right back where you started (as opposed to several other races, like the La Jolla or America’s Finest City half marathons that start in one place and run to another).  It was very humbling to see wheelchair competitors coming back the other way; it really puts your life into perspective when you see someone with no legs peddling their racing wheelchair like mad and doing something so incredibly positive.  It really makes so many of the problems in life seem petty and small and it also shows the strength of the human soul.

Not far behind the wheelchair competitors came the “Elite Runners”.  These people are more cheetah than human because they were running faster after ten miles than I could in a dead sprint on my best day.  Good for them!   Fortunately, they had nothing to fear from me, except maybe a wrestling match over gatorade at the finish line if they were still hanging around.  They are all pretty skinny, so I think I could take them…

As with all half marathons there were all kinds of people there – kids, grandparents, and everyone in between.  I saw several people I knew lining up to race and even more in the crowd that cheered us on.  I would especially like to thank the lovely ladies in spandex and purple tops for taking my mind off the pain in my feet by giving me something to concentrate on as I ran.  Thanks, ladies!

So thank you all for your support in my efforts to raise money for a worthy cause and continue to maintain my sanity – I really appreciate it, and so does the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!

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Running, sanity, and a worthy cause

Everybody has their Achilles heel, that thing in their life that they dislike, dread, or fear. Some people fear the towering podium of public speaking and for others it is the terror of tall buildings.  We all have them, those real or imagined bumps that show up on the road that is life.  Even the man of steel fears Kryptonite and for me, that thing has been running.

I have never really been a good runner.  As a youngster I was not particularly athletic, and my exposure to running long distances, clapping my hands, and counting to four as a Marine recruit was positively terrifying.  I dreaded falling into formations for physical training because I knew that I just wasn’t good at it.  I would be huffing and puffing, my burning lungs gasping for air as the spectre of falling out and incurring the wrath of the Drill Instructors loomed large over me.  It was even worse when I went to Officer Candidate School because physical fitness was next to (and seemingly slightly more important than) Godliness in the grand scheme of things.  It was particularly petrifying because I was a bit older than the rest of my class due to my time as an enlisted Marine, and it showed.  Where some of my classmates pushed the sound barrier, including one collegiate runner who routinely ran three miles in about fourteen minutes, I was usually threatening the terminal velocity of flowing molasses as I crossed the line almost ten minutes behind him.  My instructors somberly informed me that I was too slow to lead Marines, and unless I get better I would be kicked out of OCS.  I strained and trained and strained some more, and on the big day of our final physical fitness test fate smiled upon me and I made it- but literally by the skin of my teeth.  Every candidate who was followed me across the finish line was dropped from the program and didn’t graduate.  I was the anchor on the chain, but I made it.

My fear and dread of running followed me throughout my career.  I chose to meet my nemesis head on and ran at every chance I could find.  Over years of being running, jogging, and walking long distances I fell into a routine and found myself actually beginning to enjoy it.  With running comes fitness, and with fitness comes the ability to fit in a well fitting uniform while still eating pizza and drinking beer.  Not a bad tradeoff, really.

I also found that running was my personal escape from all the petty and little annoyances in life.  Nobody could call me because I don’t carry my cellphone, and unless they had on their running shoes it was unlikely that they could catch me and bring me down.  I did, and still do, my best thinking as I pound the pavement and trails on my morning run.  In running I have found a balance in life, even though I continue to not be particularly good at it.

I think about life, family, transition, the universe, stock prices, Christmas shopping, you name it.  When I return home I have solved many of the world’s problems, well, at least some of my own.  I am in a good mood, and it starts the day off right.  Over a couple of decades I have mastered my nemesis and embraced it.  That said, I am still pretty slow, but I get out there almost every day to keep from solidifying into a couch potato.

So running has become my road to maintaining my sanity.  I ran whenever I could in combat zones and whenever I could when I was home.  It has become a consistent part of my life, and continues to be so even though I am leaving the Marine Corps and its requirement for top levels of physical fitness.  Retirement is indeed a stark transition from one life to another, and running has provided me with a serene path over the bridge that takes me into what’s next.

So if you are transitioning, make sure to embrace something that will provide consistency through the process.  I have found that running is that thing for me; you needn’t necessarily take up skydiving if you are afraid of heights, but do something.  Read War and Peace.  Write the Great American Novel.  Lift weights.  Tie flies and go fishing.  Do something!  Change is overwhelming at times, and you can be crushed by the forces of uncertainty or carve a piece of yourself out of the rat race and use it to maintain your balance.  It will keep you sane when it seems that everything has gone completely and utterly crazy.

I have learned to enjoy running to the point that have run in several marathons and even more half-marathons.  Despite the pain associated with a career that has been hard on my feet, knees, and back, I find it cathartic to get out and run with thousands of people like me.  To that end, I have decided to couple my running with raising money for charity.

Here is the worthy cause bit; feel free to stop reading if you would like – I promise not to hold it against you!  I have volunteered to raise money for a very good cause: the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society.  I have joined their Team In Training, which essentially is a bunch of runners/joggers/walkers like myself who pledge to raise money and awareness for the society and the impact of those devastating diseases.  I have kids, and am grateful beyond measure because they are healthy.  Not all families are so fortunate, and Leukemia and Lymphoma are devastating diseases that are truly heartwrending in their effects on kids and adults alike.  I am doing my own little part to help them out as I go out and do something that I enjoy- running.  Anyhow, I will be running the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January, and if you would like to support the Lymphoma and Leukemia society with a donation, please follow this link to my donation site:  http://sdhi.lls.llsevent.org/gricemcarlsbadhalf.  The Team in Training and I would be very appreciative!!!