You Are What You Think About

Leave the first response May 7, 2008 / Posted in The Running Mind

Dick Michener, a dear running friend from my days around rec.running & The Roads Scholars Running Group on Yahoo Groups has a great short story called “The Rest of My Life that Richard Benyo has accepted for a future publication in Marathon & Beyond.

There’s a bio at the end of this short piece of his that gives his perspectives about actual events before and during an actual race.

“You become what you think about.” This has been a popular saying since it was uttered by Francis Bacon nearly five hundred years ago. I first heard it in high school. Is it an outdated cliché? Consider the following before you decide.

8:30 a.m. on a balmy Saturday morning in September is the scheduled start of an annual cross country race put on by a local club. Attracting entrants ranging from health walkers to elite runners, it traverses woods and water, rocks and mud. It ends at the top of a Native American mound. The tough course and the lingering heat and humidity challenge folks of all ages and abilities. Most of them sign up every year for the experience but are glad when it is over.

However, this time the start is delayed. A few minutes before the gun is set to go off, one of the entrants experiences a sudden and prolonged seizure. The victim, a middle-age man, is well known and respected in our mountain community as an excellent role model, a self-disciplined adult who has stayed in shape and compiled a clean medical history.

In the throng are several medical doctors who give him immediate and expert attention. An EMS unit arrives within minutes and transports him to a regional hospital with a fine emergency department. The entire incident delays the start of the race by less than half an hour, but it seems as though a lifetime has passed.

A debate begins about what should be done next. There is a quick consensus that the race should continue, to honor a fallen comrade and affirm an active lifestyle. These considerations make me feel guilty and unworthy. “Why am I still standing here,” I wonder, “as inconsistent as I have been with my efforts at increased exercise, improved nutrition, and weight loss, while a younger and a better man has been cut down?” However, my focus returns to the race as soon as it begins.

I have volunteered to be a course monitor, directing competitors at the final turn, where participants emerge from dense woods and head toward the steep and elevated finish. I shout the same encouraging words: “Sharp u-turn; follow the signs and the cones; you’re almost home!” I take particular pleasure in watching senior citizens grunting but grinning as they struggle up toward the finish line.

Toward the back of the pack, I spot two females coming our way in tandem, linked by a tether. As they pass by, I watch a middle-school girl listening as her middle-aged companion describes what lies ahead. The girl is blind, but her eyes are shining.

Here is Dick’s writers bio:

“My essays and stories have been published so far in the USA, Canada, Australia, and England. No books yet, but I am working on that. Most of my pieces tackle serious subjects but leaven them with humor.
All of them are less than 1,500 words. Working on a small canvas compels me to be concise, precise, and emphatic. Also, how often have you finished reading anything and said to yourself: ‘I wish that had been longer?'”

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