Guest post: Robert Veeder

I came across the following post in an ultra-running group that I am part of, and it sums up so perfectly the struggle and triumph of the human experience that frankly, I have nothing to add to it.

I know it is meant well, but when people hear about my ultra-running distances and they express concern, I have to admit, it angers me a little. One of the first things that inevitably goes through my head is, “where the hell was the concern when I was drunk every night for years on end?” And truthfully, I know that people were concerned, but they just didn’t know how to express it. I reason to myself that it is good that they finally feel that I am approachable enough that they can be concerned about my running.
On average, a person will drive under the influence about eighty times before getting stopped for a DUI, this is according to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving; you can verify it for yourself by checking out their website. I am sure that I fall well within those statistics. In fact, I think that I probably drove under the influence quite more often than that. I was just lucky- or in this case very unlucky- that I didn’t get caught. Many people were unlucky that I didn’t get caught. I left bars night after night for years without anyone saying a word about my safety or the safety of others. I can actually remember one person in that entire time that expressed concern that I would drive while intoxicated, but that’s it- one. I drove anyway. Lives were lost.
When I was in prison, nobody wrote for years, for many years, expressing their concern over my well being or safety. It hurt. It was lonely. It broke my heart daily. Where did my friends go? By the end of my incarceration, I had a few close family members left and a few very committed friends left that continued to stay in touch, but honestly, that was it. My friends were gone. Life had moved on and I was no longer much more than a fleeting thought.
That really hurt.
I passed the lonely times away by running, at first a few laps, but then the laps turned into miles. I’d listen to traffic reports while running laps around the fence, a nice confirmation that life was still going outside of the institution that I was in.
Eventually I talked the Assistant Superintendent into letting me measure the perimeter of the fence so that I could calculate how far a mile was. That didn’t make me popular in prison at all, to be seen walking the entire yard conversing with the Assistant Superintendent; but it was important to me. I needed to know the distances so that I could have goals.
One late summer day, I ran nineteen miles around the yard! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know anyone had ever run that far.
Later, I read an article in a newspaper about a female astronaut who ran an entire marathon on a treadmill in the International Space Station. That’s how I learned that a marathon was 26.2 miles. That became my next goal.
Since then I have run many marathons, and now I like to train for ultra-marathons. I love it. I love the people I meet and the places that I get to see. I love that I am no longer whiling away the hours on a barstool, or in a prison cell.
I’m active and hungry for life.
Sometimes, when I am out running trails by myself, I like to stretch my arms out as wide as they can go like I am flying. I feel freer than I ever have before in my life.
And then I have friends who are concerned that maybe I am running too much, or that I am simply replacing one addiction for another. They are worried that I might get injured (which, of course, I will). They don’t ask about HOW I train. They only hear the distances, and they become worried for me.
And again, while I think this concern is well intentioned, I simply don’t have the tolerance for it that perhaps I should. I spent too many hours of my life waiting, for this.
Waiting to live again.
Waiting to run!
To skip across streams, to jump over fallen trees, to power up hills, to be truly alive in my life.
Running is such a celebration for me.
It is such a freedom.
I want to do it as much as possible- while I still can.

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