Do It For The Joy

“If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.” – Steven King

Steven King, the wildly successful author, is talking about writing when he talks about joy, but his observation leads to the question, “Why do you do whatever it is that you do?” Do you think about your vocation or avocation the first waking moment of each day, or when you are sitting in a traffic jam on the freeway? Do you get excited when you share your enthusiasm about why you run, write, woodwork, cook, sew, play a musical instrument, grow an organic garden, take photographs, build a house?

I lifted “If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever” from King’s book On Writing. I’ve never read a King novel. His stories are not my genre. The only reason I read On Writing is because it is a highly recommended book about writing and I am a writer. But once I read the book it became apparent why his novels have sold more than 100 million copies. The passion and enthusiasm he has for his craft oozes from every page. King, I believe, would write his stories for nothing. The sheer joy he gets from telling his stories and perfecting his craft is what drives him.

Philly Run - Rocky - PGIf you want to determine whether someone loves what they do, ask them the question and then watch for animation in their gestures, enthusiasm in their voice, a glimmer in their eyes. I witnessed such passion this past week casting as an extra in Creed, the new Rocky movie that will be released in November. It was my first time on a movie set and I was curious and excited, not for the meager wage or for stories to tell friends, but to experience the creation of a story on film. Instead I got a rare opportunity to witness the energy of a unique young director orchestrate actors, filming crew, writers and coordinators in performing their craft so joyfully and enthusiastically it was a truly transcendental and contagious experience.

It got me thinking about other vocations and avocations, in other words, Why you do what you do. Even something as simple and primal as running. How many runners make a living from their sport, yet how many do you see on the road and on the trails? If none of them are paid to labour and sweat, then they must possess passion for what they do. So many decades have passed since I began running that I can’t remember with 100% certainty why I ever started, but forty-plus years later I run for the pure joy of it, that sensation of perspiration dripping from every pore in my body, the freedom of the outdoors, the panting of my heartbeat, and the liberating feeling that stays with me long after I take my last step.

I run for the joy of running, and I write for the joy of writing.

Find your passion, that one thing that drives you, puts a glimmer in your eye. Even if it takes a lifetime, you will be glad when you find it.

Mural on the side of the former Blue Horizon on North Broad Street, Philadelphia.

Mural on the side of the former Blue Horizon on North Broad Street, Philadelphia.

Posted in Running | 16 Comments

Miracle on Ice

“After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

During the 18th and 19th centuries the Wissahickon Valley was home to dozens of mills and factories. Edgar Allen Poe and John Greenleaf Whittier sought solitude along the banks of the Wissahickon Creek while industrialists and their families sought refuge in the splendor of the park. Today it is a playground for outdoorsmen, equestrians, runners, cyclists and lovers. It is where I run most days of the week, and the past several weeks it has been covered with snow and ice.

Overlooking the Wissahickon Creek.

Overlooking the Wissahickon Creek.

This time last year I was in the midst of a four-month hiatus from running after injuring my hip from a fall on the ice. It was the longest rehab I’d gone through my entire life–longer than any of my three knee surgeries. Needless to say, these days I am a bit more attentive to my footing while running on the ice.

There are several precautions I take that have been effective in remaining upright when the surface is slick (for the most part anyway.) First, is deliberate footing–keeping my eyes ahead my pace and planning two or three steps in advance. I try to land on the un-iced tips of rocks, stone or even brush. Soft snow is also good for traction, but you have to be careful it’s not covering ice (this takes diligence and time to perfect.) I try to land as soft and flat-footed as possible. I find the more foot that hits the ground the better my chances that part of it will land on a firm surface.

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There are times it seems the ice covers the trails, even where it is cleared from the hills and valleys. My running parter and guide, Bella, has the advantage of four paws, yet the Wissashickon has been so treacherous this winter there have been times all four legs have gone in different directions. It’s hysterical to watch, and I would have filmed it had I not been trying to keep from sliding down an embankment and into the creek.

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Some trials are icier than others. The two below are ice skating rink quality leaving no option but to proceed with care.
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Forbidden Drive, on the other side of the creek from the trails was an ice skating rink at sundown. photo

To end our run we took the high trail, crossed the field by the stables and watched the horses out for an afternoon stretch and dinner. This guy was particularly curious.

photoSo if you are out and about running, walking or just goofing off, be careful on the ice and watch your footing. It’s better to go slow and remain injury-free then to spend time nursing injury.

 

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Choice of The Falling Man

“You felt compelled to watch out of respect for them. They were ending their lives without a choice and to turn away would have been wrong.” – Louis Griffith Jones

"Tumbling Woman" sculpture by Eric Fischl in honor of those who chose to fall to their death rather than burn in a towering inferno on 9/11.

“Tumbling Woman” sculpture by Eric Fischl in honor of those who chose to fall to their death rather than burn in a towering inferno on 9/11.

Spend a day at the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, witness twisted iron beams, remnants of fire trucks, and the photos and profiles of the nearly 3,000 innocent people who lost their lives, and you will walk away emotionally drained. But to me, the most emotional part of the visit was an exhibit with a small sign on the entrance warning visitors of the disturbing content inside. The exhibit contained large-scale photographs and videos honoring the 9/11 victims who chose to fall to their death from the top floors of the World Trade Center rather than burn in the towering inferno.

As I walked through the exhibit reading testimonials, viewing images, and watching videos of people free-falling to their death, I couldn’t help thinking about the choice they were faced with that clear September morning. People like you and I who woke that morning, made coffee, fed their pet, and kissed loved ones goodbye with every intention of going to work, school, or perhaps to sightsee, and then return later in the day. On the subway or ferry they likely thought about meetings they’d attend, a resume for another job they planned to finish, or a friend they’d meet for lunch. Instead, the building that was home away from home to many of them was engulfed in flames within hours of their arrival.

I wondered what their first reaction was 100+ floors above the Lower Manhattan street when the building  shook violently, and then the floors and walls radiated intolerable heat, smoke swirled, the elevators shut down, and stairwells clogged. It couldn’t have been long before everyone on the upper floors knew their fate. Imagine being faced with a life or death decision before morning break.

But not everyone on the upper floors of the World Trade Center accepted the fate their perpetrators intended for them on 9/11. Rather then accept a harrowing death trapped inside a crucible, they made their own choice for their final act–they chose to fly. I imagined them emerging from a chaotic, smoke-filled inferno and stepping out into the brisk September air, a crystal clear sky with a crisp view of Ellis Island, Central Park, the East River. I prayed they found peace on their final step.

Since my visit to the museum I’ve come across a few opinions written that were critical of the 9/11 victims who chose their own fate. I wonder how blatantly righteous and judgmental someone must be to pretend to put themselves in the shoes of another human being whose life is about come to an unplanned and violent end. No doubt their opinions were written from the comfort of a warm office. The decisions I’ve been faced with in my lifetime seem innocent, even inane, in comparison to those who chose a different fate that day.

I am humbled by the courage and independence of those who chose to fly.

You can listen to an NPR interview with Tom Junod, Esquire author of the article “The Falling Man,” here.

Memorial  along the Schuylkill Banks Trail honoring Philadelphians won died in the World Trade Center on 911.

Memorial along the Schuylkill Banks Trail honoring Philadelphians won died in the World Trade Center on 911.

Postscript: I ran along the Schychkill Banks in downtown Philly this week, a trail I’ve cycled and run many times, and for the first time noticed a large piece of I-beam on the side of the trail. I stopped and looked for a long time at a piece of iron from the World Trade Center  that was made into a memorial honoring Christopher Robert Clark, age 33, Kevin Leah Bowser and Jasper Baxter, both 44, Philadelphians who died that day in the burning towers. How young, I thought.

 

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Age Is Only A Number – Part II

Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb
Forever Young

A friend and I had just finished climbing the stairway of a downtown building to the 48th floor last week when he said, “That was fun.” I agreed, and asked him, “How many guys our age do you think would call this fun?” My friend is 56, four years my junior.

Our conversation was the perfect introduction for Part II of Age is Only a NumberIn that post I talked about the time I bumped into an eighty-something year old mountain climber on Mount Rainier, and shared a ski lift to the top of Big Boulder with a seventy year old skier who told me he didn’t start skiing until after he turned sixty.

Maintaining that youthful edge isn’t just about physical activity, it applies to anything that excites you, the reason you pop out of bed in the morning–the thing that puts a glimmer in your eye. I bump into people with that unmistakable glimmer who write books,  create recipes, sculpt raw materials, construct homes, mold young minds.

Scottish novelist Muriel Spark published her last book, The Finishing School, when she was 86 years old. So inspiring I found Spark that I lifted one of her quotes for Twenty-four Years to Boston. Spark said, “… be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.” Simply put, the prime of your life is not bound by age. Poet, singer songwriter, Leonard Cohen has a more active lifestyle at 80 then many of my contemporaries. Legendary Buddy Guy is still killing them with his blues guitar at 78, BB King was touring last year with the blues he pioneered in the 1940s.

World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will be 39 when he steps into Madison Square Garden on April 25th against a much younger Bryant Jennings. Inside the boxing ring, 39 is geriatric, yet Klitschko says thinking about leaving the boxing game makes him sad. He takes the decision to hang up the gloves one fight at a time and says he will continue to box as long as he has motivation and health. In Klitschko’s words, “If one of those two is missing, then time has beat me.”Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.16.19 AM

As a Philadelphia guy, I’d be remiss if I overlooked the incomprehensible former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins who is still boxing at age 50. Professional boxing, arguably the most physically demanding and brutal sports on the planet, isn’t a place you’d expect to find a 50-year-old, yet there is Hopkins always looking for the next opponent.

If you are ever tempted to use age as an excuse not to pursue your dreams, think about Bernard, Muriel, BB, Leon and Buddy. And if you have a friend who attempts to use the age cop-out, send them this post.

Posted in Running | 8 Comments

“Watchful Eyes” – Spray Paint on Wood By Me…

Jim Brennan:

Friends and Followers,

"Intuition" is a creation of  New York City spray paint and stencil artist Ray Ferrer.

“Intuition” is a creation of New York City spray paint and stencil artist Ray Ferrer.

Artist Ray Ferrer stopped by to comment on my blog several years ago and I became an immediate fan. Ray was a finalist in an art competition in 2012 to have his work featured at Times Square in New York City. Recently, Ray had a seizure and tests revealed a large tumor on his brain. Ray is selling his creative artwork at half-price to raise money for surgery to remove his tumor. One of Ray’s creations titled Intuition was featured in the Art of Running – Part IV in December 2012. Treat yourself to some of his fabulous artwork, and send Ray positive vibes and prayers for a full and speedy recovery.
Thank you, my friends.

Originally posted on Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas:

“Watchful Eyes” – Spray Paint on Wood by Me.
36″ x 16″ x 1″ (Inches).
My first since being diagnosed w/ a large brain tumor. One of a kind original.

Many of you know of my struggle per previous posts.

**JUST SOLD**

All of my art prints and other originals are 50% off at Etsy now with coupon code ART50 at checkout

https://www.etsy.com/shop/UrbanWallArt

I hope you enjoy! I created this from the inspiration of you ALL and your eyes can be felt on our family!

Love, Ray & Rhian

Eyes1Eyes2

View original

Posted in Running | 2 Comments

What Condition Your Condition Is In

“I tripped on a cloud and fell-a eight miles high, I tore my mind on a jagged sky.” – Mickey Newbury, Jr.

The only person responsible for your condition is you, my friends. Not your coach, not your trainer; not your bartender, partner, kids, spouse, bookie, minister or guru. They may influence the decisions you make, positively or negatively, but the ultimate tender of your condition is YOU. Period.

The choices you make—whether to will yourself through the final mile of a marathon and cross the finish line, to cut a long training run short, to push yourself up that killer hill, or to have another shot at last call—in the end you are the one who makes those decisions.

Choices are sometimes tantalizing. When choices become daunting try to look past your immediate situation and consider the reward, because the reward for making the right decisions is good health—physical, emotional, psychological—and face it, without your health you have nothing. The better your choices, the better your condition. The better your condition, the better the you.

Your condition is in your hands, my friends. What you do with it is your choice. I have a sense you will make the responsible decisions, and you will be rewarded if you do.

 

 

Posted in Health, Running | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Rite2Run Visits the Pages of PhillyFit for Lung Cancer Research

PhillyFit, a local fitness magazine that circulates online to subscribers and in health clubs, coffee shops and some businesses, ran Fight for Air Climb just as I prepared for my second training climb with a group downtown. The article was inspired by my buddy Billy’s daughter Kristin who organized a team, Holubec’s Hunnies, to climb Three Logan Square on March 21st in honor of her dad who lost his battle with lung cancer last May. The stair climb raises money for lung cancer research. Read the full article here.

PhillyFit

If you are interested in making a donation to Holubec’s Hunnies that will help fund lung cancer research click here.

 

 

Posted in Health, Running, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments