Sunday, March 28, 2010

No Surrender!

"Well, we made a promise
we swore we'd always remember

No retreat, baby, no surrender"
No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

I'll bet these lyrics apply to just about all of us runners. We made a promise to ourselves that we would carry on, make it that extra mile, storm up that hill, conquer the distance. Or maybe we swore we'd get thin, healthy, and fit. But how often do we forget the promises we make to ourselves?

This song is one of many in my LSD (long slow distance-just in case the ATF is reading) play list on my iPod. It came threw my headphones during the first of 4, five mile loops in Mingo Park today and really made me think. It was raining, making the 45 degree temperature feel a bit chilly when the wind blew--even slightly!

A few weeks ago I explained that I developed a personal mantra of "Mind Over Mind" help me control my ADHD and "other" disorder. Today was a perfect day to pump up that mantra. It was cold, I was soaked, and 20 miles is a long way. I left the house with intentions of running 17-20 miles, but I knew I wouldn't be happy with anything less than 20--guess that's a part of the ADHD over focus thing.

I turned the corner of my first loop and saw my Jeep sitting in the rain. "No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender!" I stopped, filled my bottle, downed a Carb Boom gel (they are my new favorites!) and headed out on my second loop.

I watched a Blue Heron fly from Mingo Creek into a tree, then fly up stream to another tree. It was as if this beautiful bird was watching me run up the road as I admired his wing span and beauty. The rain kept coming, my hands were still warm from the dry gloves I just put on at my "aid station."

My mind went back to the song. "We swore blood brothers against the wind, Now I'm ready to grow young again."

On Friday I had the honor to be chosen to speak at one of the Pittsburgh Marathon Seminars as an "Inspirational Runner." My emotions started to explode almost as soon I started. Running has become such a passion in my life. It has become a part of me--a Blood Brother. I started out close to 400 pounds and on a fast track to the cemetery. My heart beat slow. It was efficiant, but slow. A "Natural Bradycardia" was the diagnosis. Not a disease, but something that was going to catch up to me as I aged and be a problem. That's when I realized I wanted to grow young again and running was my transportation to get there.

I stopped to pet a German Shepherd Dog and talk to a very nice man. He asked how far I was running today. I told him 20 miles. His eyes lit up, asked how long I've been a runner, then told me he was proud of me. I never would have thought another person would be out in the park today, but I found one that shared my passion for being outside--and lifted me up with his encouragement.

My Jeep was all alone in the parking lot as I finished mile 10. I filled my bottle, Carb Boomed up, took a S!Cap, and headed out for my third loop. I passed the Blue Heron again. I smiled at him. He has his wings to fly him where he wants to go, runners have their legs. His sense of freedom comes from hundreds of feet above the earth. Mine in an 11 minute 30 second mile.

I thought back to Friday night. My emotional talk. I had to refocus at times to gain my composure. I shifted from a heart felt explanation to levity, and back again, when I choked up. My Blood Brother and I have come far and we still have a long journey ahead of us.

I realized my emotions were hypomania's from my "secret disorder"--Bipolar 2 Disorder. The biggest difference between Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar 2 are the manic episodes. Fortunately, Bipolar 2's hypomanias are not as severe as the manic episodes of Bipolar Disorder. I've been learning to control my hypomanic episodes, but during my talk it was difficult. I spoke from my heart. I spoke with passion. I spoke with emotion. I told the audience that I am living proof that you don't have to be fast to be a winner--and I think that's the very first time in my life I actually believed I am a winner. I also explained that you get a medal, food, water, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and maybe a little pain at the finish line. But you also get a ticket, one that no one else can see, one that takes you on the journey to the next goal.

Running doesn't stop at the finish line. It goes on forever. It's "the promise we'll always remember." I saw my Jeep and remembered, "no retreat baby, no surrender!"

I didn't have another pair of dry gloves. My legs were feeling the cold in my running shorts. the brim of my cap was dripping with rain. I filled my bottle, Carb Boomed, S!Capped, and turned my sights toward another 5 miles.

The Heron looked at me as I ran by for the seventh time. I felt a connection. There was no other place in the world I would have rather been at that time. My legs were tired from carrying 283 pounds 16 miles. My ears were chilled. My hands were warming up. The rain started to slow, then it stopped.

As I approached the 2.5 mile turn-around of my 5 mile out and back loop for the last time today, my legs started to cramp. In all the miles I've run since I became Blood Brothers with my passion, today brought the first leg cramps ON a run. 18 miles in, I stopped at one of the parks bathrooms and tried to stretch the cramps out. For the first time today, I wanted my run to be over. I thought of the warmth inside my Jeep. The hot air blasting from the heater on my cold legs.

"Mind Over Mind!"

The pain went away when I hit the flats. I picked up the pace. I said good-bye for now to the Heron as I finished my last mile. My Jeep waited patiently for me to finish my 4 hour run. The Boss reminded me again the there's "No retreat, Baby, No Surrender!"

The cramps kicked hard when I stopped. I couldn't stretch them out. I put on a dry top and reluctantly got in the drivers seat. It took a little while, but soon the heat was blaring on my legs. The cramps went away. Tired, hungry, and warming up, I pulled into my driveway and realized how lucky we are as runners. Non-runners will never be able to feel the joyful pain of leg cramps after a 20 mile run. They will never see the world from the bouncing eyes of a body breathing heavy. And some folks just don't have the luxury of being able to run.

Remember that promise "we swore we'd always remember!"

No retreat Baby! No Surrender!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Run on,


  1. You are so inspirational, RB. I am printing this and putting it in the basket of running magazines in my personal reading room. Makes me wanna head out the door right now!!

  2. Thanks TZ. It's an honor to end up in the personal reading room!