At its core, the act of running is simple, even primitive. Merely put one foot in front of the other until you reach your goal, be it hunting a wooly mammoth or racing a 5k. Primitive man is nearly unrecognizable when compared to the humans of today, but the act of running thousands of years ago and today — near identical.
We are no longer “hunters and gatherers” and really don’t need to run. Our brains have evolved to where our activity options are staggering. There has to be something more that keeps us running after thousands of years … which I personally rediscovered over the past several weeks.
I had qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, but was thwarted by injury. Boston 2013 was to be my revenge for the relentless sun and heat which had led me to my worst marathon finish ever at my first Boston in 2012.
My motivation to qualify for Boston 2014 was at a crescendo even before the bombs hit! My one chance at qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon — the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle on September 15.
Conditions were perfect for marathoning at Erie. A pancake-flat and scenic course with cool temperatures led many runners to a personal best, qualifying for Boston or both. For me, however, it was not to be.
Through mile 20 I was spot-on for a qualifying time. However, since mile 14 I had been slowing. All I needed were 8-minute miles for the last 10k and Boston '14, here I come.
Unfortunately, the axiom that a marathon begins at mile 20 rang true for me that day. My mind was willing, my body not. While my pre-injury endurance had returned, my speed had not. With quadricep muscles which had essentially ceased I could only watch my Boston dream evaporate.
Immediately after the race, I was exhausted and dispirited. I had little time to feel sorry for myself, however, so many friends had accomplished so much. One friend had run her first marathon, another his first since being declared cancer free, yet a third qualified for Boston for a second time after many years of disappointment, another had broken a goal time barrier. I decided to revel in their accomplishments instead of stew over my disappointment.
Only a week after Erie I was scheduled to pace the 1:50 group at the Rochester (Half) Marathon. Despite tired legs and an overall sense of malaise after my race at Erie, I had no option but to honor my commitment. And I am so glad I did!
The gratification in helping others reach their goals cannot be overstated. Their excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. Despite finishing with only one person from my pace group, as always I was amazed how many runners came up to me after the race with a smile on their face and gleam in their eye and told me how my pacing had helped them reach their goals.
Page 2 of 2 - This past Saturday, I experienced my No. 1 running moment; better than running my first race, qualifying for Boston and running 50 miles combined. I ran with my 9-year-old son Ben in his first 5k.
To see running through the eyes of a 9-year-old was pure joy. Racing was all new again. To watch him as he pushed himself over the 3.1 miles was a lesson in determination. His happiness when crossing the finish line was matched only by my pride.
Running, so primitive, is equally “deep.” I have likely learned as many life lessons from running as any other facet of my life, so wonderfully crystallized over the two most recent weeks!
Steve Levitsky is a lawyer by day, runner by night, and most importantly, husband to Kim and father of Naomi and Ben. He has run hundreds of races, ranging from 5k to 50 miles, and ranks his greatest running accomplishment as qualifying for and running the 2012 Boston Marathon. Steve welcomes feedback and story ideas at Stevenblevitsky@aol.com.