So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, December 27, 2010

This Kind of Crazy

"If ... he could no longer endure the realities of ... life, he found a way out in his mental life– an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one (they) ... were unable to destroy." - "Man's Search For Meaning" - Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

Sometimes you "have" to do something a little bit out of the ordinary. A little bit on the crazy side. I've often heard talk of persons with multiple personality disorders; the term "crazy" is bandied about with such indistinction. Each of us live multiple lives & have multiple personalities, depending on the role we need to play: As a coach I provide wisdom & guidance to athletes, sometimes through a bit of bad judgement of my own. As a runner I look for a good story to entertain friends & family. Somehow the thought of how to talk about some of this kind of fell together on a four & a half mile easy trot the other morning...

The story really starts a little after two o'clock in the morning last Tuesday; I woke up wanting a soda. This might sound a little strange for a guy on vacation in New Orleans; I hadn't had a soda in over a week. Neither water nor beer was going to help me get back to sleep. However, all I had was two twenty-dollar bills, so I had to get change from the hotel front desk. I took my wallet & rode the elevator down to the lobby. "No change for a twenty," says the desk clerk. Here's where the fun begins:

Rather than return to the room for my shoes & risk awakening my (sleeping) wife, I plan to walk the two blocks - in a pair of baggy shorts, t-shirt & in stocking feet - to a convenience store on Canal, purchase my soda, & walk back. This should take no time at all. A great idea, right? Lesson: Not everything stays open all night in NOLA; what is open late on a weekend is not always the same on a weeknight. Canal Street is EMPTY on a Tuesday morning at 2:15 a.m. I begin to tick off on the map in my head where I can go, & walk another two blocks to a shop which should still be open.

I encounter a guy in Army Camouflage Utilities with a roll-on suitcase. He stares at me like I am truly insane. He tells me he just got off the plane from Afghanistan & trying to make his way home - why his route was by way of the French Quarter makes as much sense to me as my stocking-clad search for soda pop does to him. Actually, I understand him more than he does me.

Every so often you feel compelled...don't ask the logic behind compulsions of this sort; something like this happened about a year ago at the Beachcomber, in Waikiki. The specialist, in exchange for cab fare, would gladly point me in the general direction of a 24-hour soft drink purveyor. Now there are two of us in a modern-day "Wizard of Oz" situation. Lions, & tigers, & bears...

We chatted as we walked the three blocks; talking about family, our jobs, stuff like that. The store, like any place which remains open when most sane people on the face of the earth (not getting paid to stay awake) are normally asleep, has a small group standing outside the door. Naturally, they all marvel at the (obvious) fact I have walked around without shoes. The only answer I can give, naturally, is: "it's a long story." The only ones who fail to look in awe or wonder, strangely enough, are the gentlemen who benefit financially. Gee, you would think a guy carrying forty bucks would be welcome in their place. Not like I'm going to steal anything. Maybe they are concerned because of a recent rash of barefoot runners.

I hand the Guardsman a twenty to pay for the soda; he asks me to wait outside the store. He comes out seconds later with the change. I give him cab fare, which he hands to the cabbie - who followed us over to the store. I quietly snarl at the logic of his action, but the hack driver is not driving anyone who isn't paying, I guess.

I take my soda & walk back toward the hotel. Half way back from the convenience store, I encounter two couples strolling back to their hotel from their evening of debauchery. Not only do they ask the obvious, but begin to take photos, as though I am some kind of freak. Hello? Who is the sober one here?

Sobriety is great, even at three in the morning. The grating & sidewalk, on the other hand, is trying my soles. I was almost certain barefoot running was not for me when that "Born To Run" book came out; now I know. All my friends could say, when I recounted the tale for them that evening, was that I was a little insane. Looking back at the act, a few days later, it was a well-intentioned development of positive karma covering an illogical selfish desire...something for which I would have gently derided my wife had she told me the same tale.

I guess we all are a little bit crazy, here & there. The compulsions we feel can force us to run fifty marathons in fifty states, or do ultra runs on mountains...or to do truly harmful things to ourselves & others around us (I consider marathons only harmful to young or inexperienced runners). I guess the difference between (near-) rationality & lunacy, to the kind which can enable complete strangers (even those entrusted to care for us) to treat us like a lesser being, boils down to our ability to clearly tell the story, rather than letting someone else tell it.

If someone asks why you're crazy enough to run, tell them. Just make certain to keep the message simple.

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