Envy. One of the seven deadly sins. Our culture promotes it, and our conscience fights against it. But there are times when envy just sucks you in, and this week the Boston Marathon was my undoing. The more I read about it, watched coverage of it, and was pinged on social media with happy pictures of it, the more I wanted a piece of Boston for myself.
And nothing makes you want something more than when it is not only out of your reach now, but may always be out of your reach.
A lucky lottery day is not the only thing required to get into the Boston Marathon. You have to back up your desire with talent and speed. For me, that means finding an extra 40 minutes to shave over the course of 26.2 miles. Impossible? Quite likely. Impossible enough to make me quit before trying? Hell no.
The truth is that the temptation of Boston has been whispering to me for months. At the NYC Marathon expo, vendors displayed their wares including hooks to hang your flight of medals from running all of the Majors: New York, Chicago, London, Berlin, Tokyo … and Boston. I almost bought one but the prospect of the Boston peg remaining empty, forever, was enough to keep my credit card in my wallet.
When I was searching for the next big thing after New York I researched races from all corners of the globe, in search of a race to inspire me and provide an opportunity to raise awareness for a cause close to my heart. What made me settle on Chicago? It’s a Major, it is in one of America’s greatest cities … and it is one of the main Boston qualifying feeder races because the course is flat and fast.
The rational me - the me who wakes up feeling grateful for life, for family, for the ability to go outside and simply run - knows that the pursuit of goals rooted in envy is a worthless and empty endeavor. But in the case of this particular race, my envy of those who have had the privilege and good fortune to run Boston is undeniable.
I found my answer in, of all places, a memoir written by Stephen King. While his paragraph focuses on talent, I have the nerve (found only in the ego of a novice writer) to edit Mr. King’s work to include the concept of passion:
… when you find something at which you are talented [or about which you are passionate], you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic. That goes for reading and writing as well as for playing a musical instrument, hitting a baseball, or running the four-forty ... [The] strenuous program … will not seem strenuous if you really enjoy doing these things and have an aptitude [and passion] for them.”
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King.
The pursuit of the impossible, the strenuous work that is the backbone of achieving your goals, the risk of chasing something that you may never catch becomes not just tolerable but enjoyable when it is something that ignites a light within you.
And so I run.