I didn’t run the 18th Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon on Sunday, but I did a lot of remembering. I ran the first 17 Memorial Marathons and co-founded the race. Every year as the race approached more and more people would ask me, “are you ready to run?” and every year I would say yes. This year I found myself saying, “I’m not running. It’s a long story.”
The story isn’t really that long, I just didn’t really want to talk about it. When my life fell apart in 2012, I began to learn how to live with a new belief system. Before, I believed that my value was attached to my accomplishments, like being one of the people who had run all the Memorial Marathons. Now, I believe that my value is intrinsic, and my actions should be other oriented and flow from my worth. Before, I was compelled to do things, I had to. Now, I am free to act authentically and in accordance with my vision for my life.
Which brings me back to the marathon. I felt like I had to run. I had to maintain the streak of being one of only 40 people who had run them all and maintain that part of my identity. I couldn’t choose to run, I was compelled to. It took 5 years of running the marathon while in recovery to realize I wasn’t free to run and I needed to change that. I needed to not run.
It was hard to not run, much harder than running I think. I missed being there immensely. Sunday was the first time in 18 years that the Pirana Brothers in some configuration weren’t on the starting line. I missed the excitement before we made our way into the starting corrals. I missed the 168 seconds of silence. I missed the thrill and energy of running through downtown surrounded by thousands of other runners. I missed the beauty on the course, the people cheering, the banners in the breeze and the way the city unfolds before us as we run. I missed my doughnut and beer. I missed seeing the people I care about who work so hard to make the race a success and an honor to those that fell. I missed being there.
I agreed to teach Sunday School since I wouldn’t be running. We have been in the Gospel of John and the next chapter to discuss was chapter 8. John is relating to us a conversation Jesus is having with people who have claimed to believe in Him but are not acting that way. He compares them to slaves who are not free but must do what their master tells them to do. I can relate to that. I spent most of my life (48 years, 3 months and 10 days) doing things that I was compelled to do. I thought I was in control, but I never was.
To take seriously Jesus’ claims about setting us free is to take seriously the proposition that we are all enslaved to powers beyond our ability to master. Addicts will nod inwardly when they hear this, but others may need more coaxing to see their particular bonds. Sunday was a suitable occasion for me to consider the ways in which I find myself enslaved to particular identities, heritages, and practices. Dwelling in those things is not the same as dwelling in Jesus and his word.
I am free now to run or not, and I will always remember.