Running the run

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I remember sitting by my gramma’s hospital bed as a teenager, holding her hand and willing every bit of my strength into her cancer-permeated body through the fingers and palms that connected us. Despite my willingness to pay any price for her health, my attempt failed. Thus, it is no surprise that the loss of my gramma triggered another loss. The secondary casualty of my gramma’s passing was my belief in the existence of any magic that permitted us to transmit our vitality in benefit of another individual.

I was still convinced that we should use our talents to help other people. But I no longer believed that the dynamism of our bodies could be transformed into energy and radiated outward to extend or improve the lives of others.

Last weekend – I am very happy to report – my belief in such magic was restored.

Last Saturday, my friend Shelly Poindexter ran her first-ever marathon in benefit of building homes in Haiti. Such sponsorship events are nothing new, but this one was special.

Shelly had planned to run a sanctioned marathon in Maryland last Saturday. But between registering for that race and participating in it, Shelly read a book that challenged her to look at life differently. The book had inspired her to more completely align her actions with her values. Fueled by this thought, Shelly challenged herself to walk the walk – or in this case – run the run.

Shelly decided to skip the marathon one state south and donate the money she would have spent on registration, travel and lodging to a cause that resonated with her. Then she resolved to run her own unofficial marathon locally, where friends could attend and lend their support to the undertaking.

To forgo the security of an organized race with its reassuring energy, plentiful water stations, onsite medical staff, medals and race completion cachet in favor of running 26.2 miles alone is the very definition of gutsy.

Shelly’s faith in her decision paid off as folks rallied to donate, help out and even run alongside her mile after mile.

Throughout the week leading up to the run, several of those pledged to run as Shelly’s escorts expressed fears of letting her down. They lacked complete confidence in their abilities to go the distance or to do so at a pace rapid enough to keep up with Shelly’s long legs. Their anxiety only heightened as the run approached and the weather turned suddenly to winter.

I was one of those concerned that my speed might undermine my friend’s quest. But running stride for stride with Shelly in the first leg of her run, I felt energy and optimism flood my body. The good feelings took up residence and affirmed my ability to go any distance that day or any day to come. For me, that kind of running moxie is entirely new.

The annihilation of doubt didn’t stop with me. As each previously self-skeptical companion runner finished their scheduled interval, they enthusiastically shared how easy their distance had been, how they kept up without fatigue and how they had gained additional confidence in their own abilities.

This was the first magic I witnessed that day. It seemed that Shelly’s focused determination and strength had been invisibly transfused into each of us running with her, making us equal to our tasks and bringing a new level of joy to our locomotion.

The next bit of magic appeared among the faces and limbs of those who turned out to cheer Shelly in her 26.2-mile trek. Seeing their smiles, hearing their cheers and watching as they jumped and even ran alongside the road to shout encouraging words, it was clear. Shelly’s energy was flowing outward and being received by others in ever-widening circles.

The next bit of magic happened in the second half of the run, when muscle cramps and fatigue challenged Shelly’s commitment. It was then that the verve Shelly had projected outward came flowing back to her, granting her access to physical and psychic reserves needed to complete the distance.

Shelly’s marathon – and its symbiotic exchange of energies – made me again a believer in magic. In my opinion the evidence is incontrovertible. Shelly had used her energy to improve the lives and well-being of friends near to her as well as to strangers living over 1,600 miles away.

To date, Shelly’s run has raised $3,350. Adding matching funds, her gift to build homes in Haiti triples to $10,500. That money will build 33 homes, each housing five people. Because of Shelly’s marathon, 165 people made homeless by recent events in Haiti will have a roof, four walls and the knowledge that they are cared for by others.

Observing the results of Shelly’s intention combined with action, I again believe in our innate ability to radiate our personal energy in the service of others. Shelly’s marathon has proven to me that the flow of positive energy we send out continues further than we can know and is felt by everyone in its path. I am now certain that my gramma sensed and appreciated the love I sent years ago, just as 165 people in Haiti will soon sense the caring and kinship originated in the spirit of one determined athlete with a mission.

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