Last year I took a train to California, got a ride out to Dillon Beach (small place north of San Francisco), touched the Pacific Ocean, and, over the course of four months, proceeded to run across America. During that time crossing over from one state into another many fellow citizens inquired why a lonely idiot would even consider slowly making his way across 3,000 miles of mountains, deserts, snow, rain mud, dung, and pavement. (I documented every day of this run as well as my run across the United Kingdom on YouTube.)
The answer to anyone, and everyone interested, was simple: "I will not say until the run is complete."
There were those who figured it was just a "run of the mill" generic personal/spiritual phase that most humans try to rationalize and live through, while others wrote it off to my Forrest Gump moment and claimed, "you just felt like running," in an attempt to comprehend something they simply didn't have a reasonable answer for.
Try as they might none of it would matter anyway if I failed (and would need to try again) and that only once I touched the fountain at Lincoln Center in New York City (I didn't discuss the endpoint with anyone for fear of jinxing the result till I was in Rockaway, New Jersey, 40 miles from the finish) could I truly begin to explain my reasoning to people.
The way I looked at it I didn't have the right to talk about it until what needed to be done was completed. This realization occurred a few years ago.
As one might imagine the final day of the run was a very joyous occasion.
I ran over the GWB and into Central Park to meet up with a reporter from our local New Jersey paper.
Just as I had pictured while staring into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and later the deserts in Utah, and during most days of the run, I came out of the park in the direction of the fountain and saw my grandfather coming towards me (you can check that out in this YouTube clip). He agreed to walk the last few blocks to the finish (four months prior, and with tears in his eyes he hugged me and said "goodbye" just in case). I gave him a kiss, and hug, and complimented his choice of T-shirt which said "life is good."
I promised myself he would be the first and only one to know why before the run concluded.
When we reached the fountain, I could see security wasn't happy about a poster my mom brought to congratulate me. Frankly, I don't think we cared. After 3,000 miles who would get in the way? Mayor Bloomberg? The NYPD?
Nothing happened either way and I safely crouched down and dipped my left hand into the water to signal the end. As I got up I shared a hug and a word with my friend Howard (a year ago I told him this is where I saw myself within the span of time that elapsed). We spoke every night of the trip, and he ran across the GWB with me.
It was after this moment that I quietly acknowledged it was time to start talking.
The reporter (Rebecca O'Brien of the Bergen Record. Her article on the run is here) was politely impatient since she had waited all morning to find out my reason (we first discussed the story by phone when I was running through Ely, Nevada).
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my iPhone. The previous night, sitting in a motel in Fort Lee, New Jersey and after completing the last full day of the run, I had written the phrase out the way I wanted to text it to a few select people who were close to me after I was done. It was as good a way to start as anything else.
It is still in my phone after all this time and if I ever begin doubting myself about anything it is a convenient reminder.
I handed Rebecca the phone with a smile.
"All ridiculously stupid, and crazy things are invariably done because of a woman. Duhhhh"
I met the woman for whom this run occurred close to three years prior (in September of 2009) and almost immediately she brought out the sort of honesty in me we are all afraid to share for fear of getting hurt. In the end it wasn't sex, fancy words, or empty promises. All it took was a simple hug, and what looked like a few well placed tears on her part. Life is simple that way, it doesn't take much to inspire, and make us happy. After she walked out of my life I came to the realization that to fight for her I couldn't just say, "I'd go to the ends of the earth for you," if I couldn't prove it to myself first.
Who are we, myself included, as individuals to claim that is true?
We talk a lot as a society, and as those same individuals, but at the end of the day none of us have much to say.
Actions, even idiotic ones like this, speak much louder than any words and maybe that is what my run was all about in the end.
That and her.
To this point in my life this woman represents everything that is positive, joyful, important, and beautiful. That is how it is and how I want it.
She is everything there is and that is how it should be for any real man.
However, as I keep reminding myself she is not just a symbol, but a person who has her own problems, needs, and concerns and that at the end of the day, solving those will be the only real way I can win her heart, and keep it forever. Deep down she has no fear and is a true "Queen-Lioness" and the only reason anyone would be stupid enough to write any of this is because today, August 1, is her birthday.
"Age is just a number, no fear 'A'."
Perhaps she doesn't believe in me yet, but thankfully there are over 180 countries on earth to help prove my point.
Which will be next?
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for how this story goes.