I saw the Lion King musical last weekend. It was FANTASTIC. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend it. Watching the actors pour their hearts into their songs and dialogues struck a chord in me. It gets me every time I attend a live theatrical performance: a combination of stirred-up emotions (yes, I cry at songs in musicals); total absorption in a world created by people I could walk right up to and poke (don’t worry, I’ve never actually done that…yet); and raw, unfiltered envy.
I do not enjoy being the center of attention. I don’t like standing on a stage, having lots of people just…watching me. So I’ve always admired people who can unhesitatingly bounce out there and use their passion – for music, dancing, drama, poetry, whatever – to fling themselves at their audience.
I carried that admiration/vicarious energy into Albuquerque’s Day of the Tread Half Marathon on Sunday. I hadn’t trained very hard for the race; I hadn’t even been certain that I would be able to run it at all. When it turned out I could, I decided to just go for it and see what happened, training be hanged. It was one of those decisions you make in the first mile that seems positively brilliant until you hit the last mile. Suddenly, opponents ease past you like a breeze, and you think, “Um, weren’t my legs functional just a minute ago?” Oh well.
I don’t regret how I ran that race, though. I was running with my sister, I felt good, and Mother Nature absolutely preened that day in full October glory. How could I not revel in it for as long as possible? How could anyone not?
Maybe I’m wrong about my distaste for stages. Is it possible that every race course is a stage, and we runners (sorry, Shakespeare) are just actors on it? The asphalt, grass, dirt, or track comprising a race course may not be the Globe Theatre, but how many of us use our passion for running to fling ourselves at the world? Instead of costumes, we wear numbered bibs, but they have the same effect.
A race course, like a stage, demands that you open up and give of yourself. It’s a test, yes, but isn’t it also a celebration? Maybe you won’t set a world record, maybe the audience won’t adore you, but they will at least be able to witness your passion. And that is something. To paraphrase Steve Prefontaine, “To give anything less than everything is to sacrifice the gift.”
I know there are runners out there who haven’t raced in a long time, or have never raced at all. I know they have their reasons, but I say this to them: Come out! Let that little light of yours shine so brightly that it completely blinds the doubter in your head. You might feel scared at first, but don’t worry – a touch of stage fright is natural, and it won’t even begin to come close to the surge you’ll feel when a total stranger cheers for you, or when you overhear a kid on the sideline say, “They’re running so fast!” or when you cross that finish line.
You might even make someone in the crowd feel a little bit of raw, unfiltered envy.