The Thought:  Seize This Day


Gary Griffin,


I’m not sure when I first had “the thought.” Maybe it was at Pine Run last year – a beautiful clear and mild day amidst the rolling hills of Tall Timbers. Or maybe it was at the Boston Mini three weeks later, where another glorious morning for running gave me that “no excuses today” feeling. In any case, it was last fall and it was powerfully uplifting and yet – foreboding — in a sense.

The thought? “You may never pass this way again. Seize this day!” Or, to paraphrase the words on a memorable Miller Landing Madness shirt that Tom Perkins created a couple of years ago:

“The day may come when I can no longer do this. Today is not that day.”

The thought that hit my mind that October day at Pine Run and again up in Boston (and which has already had occasion to resurface twice again this year) had more of a sense of urgency, for it boldly proclaimed, “This is the day. Do not waste it. Seize it.”

In the best interests of not coming across as fatalistic, I need to explain a few things.

First of all, on Pine Run day I had just turned 61 and after a summer on the track at Maclay and a 5K here and there to accompany some longish 8-hour runs, I felt better (read, faster …) than I had in years. Quite frankly, I had forsaken speed work or 5K running years ago, but when Peg started working so many local races I just kind of found myself at those venues on Saturdays. Every now and then, in what seemed like some sort of unplanned, but natural progression, I would enter and run and, more importantly, realize that I had been missing out on some fun. I also realized that the adage, “use it or lose it” was no Old Wives Tale. So, as 2010 rolled around I spent more time at the track – at first Leon and then on Tuesdays at Maclay — and began taking upcoming 5Ks into my ultra planning. Surprisingly (at least to me), I started running faster when I went long. Yet, I was 60 years old and “fast” was purely a relative term.

As Pine Run day neared I felt better than I had in a long time and on that glorious Saturday, with the thought bouncing around inside me that “you may never get this chance again,” I ran basically as hard as I could for as long as I could and just hung on. Three weeks later at Boston I did the same, simply because I was driven by the thought that on a day simply made for running, how could I take a chance and waste what might be the last opportunity to really run on the rolling hills that have called me back so many times over the years. Next year’s Boston or Pine Run may bring heat, driving rain or an injury or some life event to hinder me. And after all – who does know what tomorrow may bring?

So, 2011 arrived and we showed up at Old Centerville Road for the 30K. A nasty winter was sure to bring another nasty day, but lo and behold – OCR that day was incredible! It was another one of those days simply made for running, running as fast one can with no excuses. Again, the thought hit me: do not waste this chance! With a date at the Mountain Mist 50K a week away and marathon plans two weeks after that, part of me begged for caution.

“But – what if I never get another day to really run the 30K in weather like this,” I asked myself. “I will have wasted the chance!”
Spurred on by the thought, I loved every step of the 30K, especially on the “Three Sisters” and that nasty little thing at about mile 14 where Herb was working. Yes, I loved it more that day than I have ever loved it.

Mountain Mist came and went as only Mountain Mist does and Marathon Sunday arrived. It had been cloudy and rainy and gloomy all week and was forecast for the next week as well, but that day dawned with everything a marathoner would want: it was simply another great day to run. The skies were clear, the temperatures were wonderfully mild and there was nary a breeze as we stood in the near-dawn darkness. “Do not waste this,” the voice said. “You may never get another chance like this. Seize this day!”

Those can be dangerous thoughts in marathoning. Experienced runners and the text books will tell you that even splits or negative splits will result in your best marathon times. But that wisdom gets lost in the caverns of the mind when a far louder voice exhorts you to “Seize this day!” Run as fast as you can for as long as you can, for how else are you ever going to be sure that you gave it your all?

We play all sorts of mind games when we run long, in hopes of getting the very best out of ourselves when that is indeed the goal. But nothing I have ever done has been as powerful as the “you may never pass this way again” experience.

I have run ultras and marathons in four decades and have always tried to be vividly aware that this running life is a gift – a potentially fleeting gift – and that it can be gone tomorrow. We’ve seen many come and go, those of us who have been at it awhile, and to be one who is still able to step up to the starting line I am more aware than ever of just how incredibly fortunate I have been. But you see, the best part about it all is that it lasted long enough for me to be able to hear that voice! How many really get that chance? How many stand at the line truly aware of the words shared by Tom Perkins out at the Madness:

“The day may come when I can no longer do this. Today is not that day.”

Fortunately, there are no more 20Ks or half marathons or 30Ks or marathons on the schedule in the immediate future and besides, it’s 5K season soon and the weather will get warmer. And the voice tends to not be so loud when the mercury rises. That’s fine. It has sure been fun listening to it of late.