Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Catskill 155 - Part 2 Thoughts From A Friend (Guest Post)

My friend and author of this post, Matt!
A long time ago I took an anthropology class in college. My favorite discussion was about what draws us to watching sports. What excites us about a 70 yard touchdown pass? A grand slam? Those crazy gymnasts in the Olympics? The crazier members of Cirque du Soleil? The underlying answer was that we humans enjoy watching other humans do things that we simply cannot do.

On Mondays I like to drink my morning tea in Eric’s office as we exchange stories of our weekends. My favorite Mondays are after an ultra-marathon when I pepper him with questions about how he felt, how many calories he took in, the terrain, the elevations, when he hit the wall, when it seemed impossible, how it felt to finish etc… I couldn’t hear enough because I was hearing someone I knew very well describe doing something I simply could not do.

One day in late spring Eric asked me if I would be willing to crew for him if he did a “very long solo charity run”. It seemed like a fleeting thought until the next day when he asked me which weekends in August I was free. Within the week the details were pretty much set. A 155 mile run from his buddy Jeff’s house to his parents’ house. The crew was set: me, Cori (my wife), Sean, Rich, Cheryl, Tani and one person I had never met but heard a lot about, Tony, a seasoned utra-nutjob who was the only one on the crew who knew what Eric was going through.

Watching Eric struggle through this was a learning experience like no other. The start was pretty anticlimactic. I kept feeling like it should be bigger than it was. Eric was about to run 155 miles! Shouldn’t there be a news crew? Fireworks? Instead, we all met at Jeff’s house in Oneanta, NY, took a bunch of photos and watched Eric trot off down the driveway to our own loud but meager cheers. Exactly as Eric wanted it. This was his solo journey and it was going to be one hell of a ride.

There were times in the beginning when he looked great and Tony, who was clocking his time religiously, would beg him to slow down. There were times half-way through where he seemed incoherent and broken. And there were times toward the end where you felt like you were watching a train wreck in slow motion. I kept feeling like we were abandoning him every time we drove 2 or 3 miles ahead to the next check point. But then, sometimes much faster than we anticipated, and sometimes much, much slower, we would see his form bobbing up and down in the distance like Sisyphus pushing that damn boulder. That guy just kept going! Despite the blisters, the chaffing, the swollen ankles, the lack of sleep, the lack of mustard (sorry, inside joke) …

It wasn’t until the end that I finally put this all together. Despite all of the memories there were two key moments that stuck with me. The first was when the crew gathered at the 154 mile mark with the same meager cheers that started us off to acknowledge that Eric has “just a mile to go”. The second memory was watching Anita embrace Eric at the finish line. A slight, bald, cancer-ridden woman hugging the smelliest man on earth at that moment. His struggles were nothing compared to what she has gone through. But his struggles were his choice.

From children we were told to never say “can’t”. I am proud to say that there are many things I can do better than some people. But I can’t throw a 70 yard touchdown pass, I can’t hit a 95 mph fastball, I can’t flip off a balance beam, and I can’t run 155 miles straight. But my good friend Eric can. And if my anthropology class is right, I will always be there to marvel at that human in action.

2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this post - even made me a bit teary! I guess I reveal in heroic sporting feats not because I can't do them but the small part of me that knows if I wished too, with hard work and the right mindset, that I too could achieve something incredible

    ReplyDelete
  2. Julia, I love this post too. Indeed you are right. I am certain we are all capable of incredible things. You can do it. Peace E

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails