Sunday, September 23, 2012

A(nother) Perfect Saturday

Yesterday will go down as one of the best days I've ever had...a little slice of life the way it ought to be. It actually reminds me one of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog.

For the last 13 weeks, I have been training a group of people to run a Fall 1/2 marathon. We have met every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning for the last three months. This program, however, was actually not a 1/2 marathon training program - Running was simply the vessel for a much more important program...facilitating community.

Some of the "Just For The Run Of It" Team after the
Denver Rock N' Roll 1/2 Marathon.
Yesterday, most of my group ran the Denver Rock n' Roll 1/2 marathon (a few of us were training for other races), and I don't think it could have gone better. Quite a few of us ran our first 1/2 marathons while the rest of us soared on to new highs by either beating old personal bests or surpassing our goals. I waited nervously at our post-race rendezvous point to hear who would have the horror story of the day, but it NEVER HAPPENED. I was shocked and overjoyed. I'm so proud of those guys for following the training and adhering to the race day strategy so well...they worked so hard and earned every ounce of that glory.

But as I was saying before, this wasn't a 1/2 marathon training was fertile ground to begin to grow organic community. During our first meeting, I told my team that I didn't care if they finished or even ran the race, but if they just trusted the training they would be ready come game time. "The purpose of this group is to build community and be a safe place for you to explore running."

Time spent in a program like this is probably 98% training and about 2% racing, so one of the things I'd hoped to facilitate in this group was finding the joy in the journey. Most of the magic happens during training (or recovering at the restaurant afterward), and not so much when you're pushing too hard to speak to the person running next to you. If you're "present" for these moments, the rewards are unfathomable.

Growing organic community is something that you can't do on purpose. All you can do is supply the ingredients, show up, buckle in for the ride, and free up all five senses to take in as much of it as you can.

It was amazing to watch the bonds between our teammates become stronger throughout the season. The team continued to show up for tough workouts every week, not out of guilt, but because "teammate" progressed to "friend," and who doesn't like spending time around their friends? We weren't half-way through the program before the "hey, what's going to happen after this is over?" question popped up.

Maybe it's just a Pavlovian association, or maybe we really are "Born to Run." I think we're just starved for true organic community in a society that is characterized by individual independence, self-sufficiency and a lost understanding of how to "need one another." Running just happened to be the conduit in this situation.

In a couple of weeks, when we're all recovered from our races, we're going to open this group up to anybody interested. This group gets the community vision, and it would be a cruel/selfish thing to try and keep it to ourselves.  If you live in the Boulder area, please feel free to join us. Even if you've never run before in your life, join us for food afterward...remember, it's a community group, not a running group.  8)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saying Goodbye to a Friend.

Yesterday, many people in the Boulder community were forced to say our final goodbyes to our good friend Terence (TJ) Doherty, who we lost to a bicycle accident.

I'm selfishly writing this blog because my memory isn't what it once was, and want to be able to remember TJ years from now. I'm sharing it because it's events like these that help us to reflect on our own lives and the people involved in them.

I met TJ during my first week here in CO at a Monday night Fun Run at Fleet Feet, where I later took a job, and where also, TJ had once worked part-time. We ran the Wonderland Lake Loop that night, and I specifically remember TJ effortlessly pulling away from a pack of guys that I need a steady dose of caffeine and adrenaline to keep up with even now that I'm acclimated to the altitude. After the run, I remember inquiring about the Pumas he was wearing. He was the only person I really spoke with that night who I didn't already know.

We developed a unique friendship in that TJ, for some reason, felt the need to pick on me incessantly. 8)  Most of you know that I've got a pretty long fuse, but man, could he ever burn that thing down quickly. I specifically remember getting into an argument with him one day about something completely stupid and unresolvable. (He was also one of the few who could coax me into such arguments). As the issue was close to my heart and I'm a pretty passionate guy, I was noticeably upset when I failed to defend my point in this battle of wits. I'll never forget the look on his face as he immediately pulled his foot off the verbal gas pedal and we all got quiet. After a few moments, I quietly got up to catch my bus, and before I left, he made sure to look me in the eye and shake my hand.

From there, our friendship took on a slightly different shade. The needling never stopped - I think he knew that I needed it. He still made me want to smack him every once in a while, but inevitably, he would throw one of those "heeeyyy, c'mon!" grins at me, and I'd let it slide.

That said, TJ also went well out of his way to help me quite a few times, and as he was careful not to let anybody else know, I'll keep them to myself. But, it happened. He was good to check up on me as I went through the difficulties of trying to get plugged into a new city.

I remember a few weeks ago, I punched him in the arm. Not one to back down, even to a guy who was about 50 lbs. his senior, he hit me back. We smiled at each other, then jumped directly into a knock-down-drag-out, WWF-style wrestling match as our fellow runners looked on and rolled their eyes. Eventually, we called a stalemate, as he pushed me and my tractionless shoes across the floor, and I squeezed him till he turned red. We stood up, and I smiled a smile that said, "you know I was about to whoop your ass, right?" He read my smile accurately and replied aloud, "but that was pretty good though, right?"

My only fellow motorcyclist here in Boulder, TJ and I took a great ride one night after a Monday night run. We went out over Old Stage Rd. and out Left Hand Canyon, then back to Gunbarrel. There are few more beautiful places to ride motorcycles at night, and we both knew that as we nodded heads to each other before going our separate ways that night.

I was walking with one of my athletes at the Boulder Res a week ago as we finished up her run, and I heard a voice call "hey." I'd barely turned around before TJ went flying by me at a pace which I'll probably only ever dream about.

Yesterday, I arrived at work and was made aware that TJ had been in an awful accident and was currently in the ICU across the street. Time stopped. This just didn't seem possible. I, along with many others, went over to see him, and though I'm glad I did, I rather wish I hadn't. His body was being kept alive by machines at that point so that, in one last act of generosity, he could donate his organs to those in need. It's one of the most dreadful contrasts my eyes have ever made - seeing him so very vibrant, and then not so.

So sadly, I will never have the honor of calling TJ an old friend. I am so thankful, however, to be able to have called him a good one. My heart breaks at the thoughts of what I looked forward to seeing him become and achieve, and it goes out to those who knew him far better than I...especially his fiancée Adrienne, and his surviving immediate family.

TJ, I hope you were able to see all the people who came out in your honor last night. You have left an important, impactful legacy. You are inspiration to us all to live, and you will never be forgotten, brother. Our lives will be different without you, but more importantly, our lives are/will be different because of you.