In Order To Enrich Your Life You Must Embrace It
The 36th annual Kiwanis Club Firecracker 5K Run is cause for reflection for our editor Steve Bornhoft.
A welcome Independence Day morning breeze had developed by the time I arrived at Cascades Park, there to join the hundreds of runners cued up for the 36th annual Kiwanis Club Firecracker 5K Run. Many had found ways to adorn themselves with the miniature American flags found in their race packets.
Some wore red, white and blue shirts, socks and even shorts as further testament to their patriotism. For whatever reason, I saw no MAGA hats. Groups reliably found at runs like the Firecracker were well represented here. Groups, that is, including high-school girls with pony tails, legs that appear to be 6 feet in length and the body-fat percentage of a whippet.
There were a few Bearded Old Dudes with Knee Braces and Do-Rags, looking like they were a couple of months into a cross-country Gump run. The field included a smattering of Men Who Persist in Wearing Tube Socks, along with elite male runners who prefer to go shirtless as if concerned that wearing even a singlet might increase their time by a few tenths of a second.
And there were women, the warmth of this July day notwithstanding, who chose to run the race in suffocating — I should think — yoga pants. Jack Levine, a ubiquitous sort if ever there were one, was hanging about with his tiny digital camera, taking photos of anyone he could cause to stand still and look up. Jack wore the same wide-brimmed hat, button-down print shirt, green cargo shorts and sensible shoes that he had worn to the race a year earlier, suggesting that this was not a new day, rather a Groundhog Day.
But it was important that this race be different. I had reported to the start line, uniquely, as The Guy Who Wiped Out in 2017. Coursing through an aid station, grabbing a cup of water on the fly, I had scuffed a toe, lost my balance and slammed into the pavement. While I attempted to break my fall with the heels of my hands, my torso absorbed the brunt of the impact and, for subsequent weeks, I would have a hard time finding a position in which I could sleep. The race, in my mind, came to be known as the Ribcracker 5K.
This year, I had formed a bit of a race plan that went beyond falling in behind an attractive rump and placing one foot in front of the other. I resolved to hydrate immediately prior to the race and to skip the aid stations on the course. So it was that I sat down with bottled water in hand on the granite ring that surrounds the military memorial at Cascades, the one inscribed with a phrase, “Duty, Honor, Country,” delivered by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his 1962 farewell address delivered to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
In that setting, I reflected on my father, a World War II Marine Corps veteran who spoke little about his military experience until very late in his life. Had those “three hallowed words,” as MacArthur described them, served my dad as “rallying points to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn”? I think so. They are not my watchwords, however.
I might favor instead the 5 E’s of Autism awareness: Embrace, Engage, Enable, Expand, Express. Those words were to be found, as it happens, on rubber bracelets distributed to Firecracker runners. I had slipped my bracelet on my wrist unthinkingly, but now, as the start of the race neared, I thought about the E words. What common denominator unites them? What do they mean to me? How might I apply them to the race?
Each word among the five can be tied to personal development and enrichment and to efforts to “give primacy to the human and spiritual, rather than to the material, values of life,” a goal espoused by Kiwanis International. As to the race, it was important that I embrace the challenge it represented, engage that challenge by approaching it with enthusiasm and confidence, and enable my success by maintaining focus on my steps along the way.
In so doing, I might succeed in suppressing a failure, the fall, and celebrating a finish, thus overcoming an impulse to retreat and to instead go forward with an expanded sense of the possible. Finally, then, I might express to others the feelings I experienced in meeting a goal. I crossed the finish line in 36 minutes and change. I’ve still got it; it just takes me longer to get there.
Keep on keepin’ on,