A Truly Remarkable Year

No Need for Speed: December 2005

Everything I meant to tell you about

Long-times readers of this column, especially those of you who have made the transition from “The Penguin Chronicles” to “The Chronicles” to “No Need for Speed” with me, already know that the December column is the annual wildcard. Eleven columns are year are for you. December is for me.

This is because December has been the time of so many special events in my life. I was born in December, got my driver’s license, got drafted, got married, and celebrated a lifetime’s worth of holidays with friends and families. December is the month where it’s time to reflect and look back.

The early part of this year was taken up by my third trip to Antarctica for “The Last Marathon”. I’ve written about what happened, but not what it means. My life over the past 5 years has become divided into two parts: the time I’m thinking about being in Antarctica and the time I’m there. 

I can’t explain the draw, the longing – no, aching – to go back. I can’t begin to articulate what it means to be “there”, when “there” is nothing like being “here”. I know that in February of 2007 my friend Gus will come walking into a hotel lobby in Buenos Aires and my life will suddenly make sense. 

We will wander around the streets of Tierra del Fuego in search of last minute supplies, like soap and toothpaste. We will battle with recalcitrant ATV’s and shepherd 100 unsuspecting runners onto a former Soviet spy ship. And at some point we will put on our Mustang jackets and be taken to King George Island to set up the course. 

In between we will experience whatever the journey offers us. We will live without the constraints of control, without the restraints of commitments beyond the minute that we’re in, and without being distracted from the world within our view. 

As spring turned to summer I started training for the Chicago Marathon. Even after running 40 marathons I found myself nervous about training for a marathon.  Coach [and wife] Jenny gave me a schedule. I had rules to follow. I knew when to run. When not to run. When to rest.

I felt like a complete beginner as I went out for my first 4 mile “long” run. I felt like a novice as my long runs started to get up into double digits. I felt the same fear that I always feel as I passed the 1/2 marathon mark and wondered how I’d ever run another 13.1 miles.

But I also felt more like a runner than I have in years. Knocking out the miles along the Chicago lakefront with thousands of other runners who are doing the same thing helped me feel a part of some grand struggle. We were all out there; solo runners, runners in groups of 2 or 3 or 50, fast runners, dedicated walkers. It didn’t matter. We all knew where we’d all be in October. 

The year closed out with the clutter of the fall marathon season: Scotiabank, Rochester, Chicago, Columbus, Nike, Marine Corps, New York, and Honolulu. I spent the final months of 2005 in the carnival tents that we call “expos”, with all the other running gypsies. There were sticks and balls and creams and magic potions and people who were sure that they knew the answers.

And the most amazing part of all of this is that it began with an 8 second run down my driveway 14 Decembers ago. An 8 second run. Without those 8 seconds there’s be no column, no marathons, and no readers. 

Life is good.

Waddle on, friends.


The year’s biggest event came in April with the birth of “the twins”, Hunter Lee and Siena Grace, two small miracles that have changed everything. They are, in case you haven’t heard, my first grandchildren. Their birth catapulted my life into another generation. The child that I had held was now holding his children. 

I relearned how to hold a bottle, burp a baby, and change diapers – even THOSE diapers. I’ve looked into the eyes of the innocent and seen the best of what I can be reflected back at me. I’ve seen what life looks like without the weight of having lived. 

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