race day affirmation

Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man [devotes] himself to his life with reverence in order to give it true value. ... At the same time the man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give to every will to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. - Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought
Today was race day! I met some really wonderful people. But let's get into the 'race': When I finally found the 4:00 pacer, which was my goal marathon pace based on my training, I discovered 10k later, so at 30k, that today was not my day. I finished 10 minutes off - but before I knew that, as I approached the final uphill, I had a completely unexpected sensation of being exactly where I was meant to be today.
Up until that point, I had made a firm commitment to just keep 'running', which felt more like a generous walk, so I was not anticipating a positive outcome, though I definitely put through the motions what I've learned from David Roche's articles and Kaci Lickteig's practice: I thanked and praised all of the spectators offering encouragment, high-fived children - even acting like a child myself at some points, wanting not just to pass by, but to interact in any way, which, for lack of better idea, meant I yelled out: whooop! And made Italian-inspired gesticulations.
So when I reached the final section, I was surprised to feel a rush of gratitude at just being there, making that effort as an average Joe (I came in the top third of women, the middle of men's times), as if my body was trying to teach me something like a Hallmark card might say: when we don't give up, there is a kind of levelling where we do all get snowflake-awards. (I will probably lose all five of my regular readers, who I am so grateful for, when I admit, I am not a fan of "everyone wins" - but, that said, as a teacher, I love rewarding effort, so, I guess my life philosophy was meeting me in the final miles of the marathon.)


I've been lecturing a lot about ethics recently, which is probably why Schweitzer, who wrote the quote at the top of this post, was on my mind, even though ethics is not on the syllabus. He came up with the concept of "reverence for life" as a remedy to the impulse to criticize and a bid to explain the ideal of an ethical society in the modern age. In my own teaching, I've also concluded that it makes little sense to explain the purpose of critical approaches without considering ethics. How can what we do be devoid of ethics, and civic resposibility, if we are striving to live a life worth remembering?
What I like about Schweitzer is that the path he draws to ethics begins with reverence for life. His teaching begins with thanks, which on so many levels is a solution for those of us with Tolstoyan questions, wondering at a Rousseauian 'blank slate'/noble savage approach to education. Rather than get into all that, let's go straight to the solution: isn't the ideal education one where learning is voluntary, one where we, students, are moved out of a deep sense of gratitude and awe to try to grow? To bring this back to running, I am so grateful for today's experience, because it was an experience of gratitude - if not at all what I was expecting, or how I expected things to go.
Speaking of Tolstoy, couldn't what he wrote of the school he founded also be said of running: "Like every living body the school not only changes every year, day, and hour, but also has been subjected to temporary crises..."
Life: what a journey! Wow! *cough, or did I mean, whooop? (Your writer cringes. Laughing. And affirming life.)
Postscript day-after addendum: I am realizing it is relevant to add that in my happy state after the marathon, I congratulated others who were in the "finish zone" at around my time, and all of them, except for one, almost barked that their time was not what it could have been because of: the weird weather (it was), injury, sporadic training. I could have spoken like they did at that point, but far before then, I had come to terms with my day, and ended up having an experience that exceeded my expectations. Also, today, I am almost as good as new - which could be a sign I didn't push myself, or could be a sign that I'm in this for the long (ultra?) run.

Brush: misprinted type.

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