"My whole life has led up to this moment."
It's a cliche movie phrase that I've heard in any number of underdog films in my life. Movies and television lend credibility to the idea that life is full of start and finish lines. Every week, the family wraps up the issue. As the credits roll, the littlest engine that could holds up the trophy, having finally won the approval of the mean authority figure and the quirky romantic opposite.
As I've been reading this month's Runner's World article about Chariots of Fire (a movie, I'm ashamed to say, I have yet to see), I've thought a lot about how movies might have influenced the way I thought about things. I mean, look no further than the Chariots theme song. In and of itself, I wouldn't call it a motivating piece of music. It doesn't even have a drum beat. But splash that with memories of running along a beach at St. Andrews, and suddenly those notes have you believing you can do anything.
You can get your ragtag group of friends together, win that local sports championship, and get the love of your life. And then... well then they say it's happily ever after. So what does that mean?
Life doesn't work like movies and television shows. There are plot lines and dilemmas in every moment, constantly overlapping. You go to school, get a job, get an apartment, get a house, get a new job, get a dog, have kids, get a bigger house... eventually, you might find yourself wondering when you just get to stop and enjoy everything. You're waiting for the finish line, but if you spend all your time thinking about the tape at the end, you'll miss the run.
Today was a day where it just kept getting tougher. It was a new route for me, and the first part was all hills. As I turned to the first downhill section, the wind hit me. Then I ran out of pavement. After that it was sun and wind. When I turned for my last downhill, with the wind at my back, I smiled in sight of the finish, only to remember that it wasn't the finish. In order to get over five miles, I had to do a lap of the neighborhood.
As I did that last lap, I thought about the run. The guy in the pirate costume with his "We Buy Gold" sign. The kids at the bus stop. The elderly woman who held up traffic to let me cross the parking lot entrance. The sun. The sky. The feel of strength in my legs and air in my lungs. And I smiled.
See, for the few elite marathon runners out there, it's all about the moment. It's about winning the race, and standing on the podium. But for most of us, it's about the run. And that's something I want to remember. Something I plan to remember.
Happiness is not a place you get. It's the road beneath your feet.