(*Author’s note: this is a new feature on Burnpoetry, chronicling my attempts to reconnect to my once-favorite sport of long distance running.  For the detailed explanation, click on this link.  This particular post is from the day after the Boston Marathon Bombings.  Enraged.  Deeply saddened.  The day of the bombing was a day I’ll never forget.

I won’t forget the day after, either.

Still head-rushing, still awash in bile and sadness and metallic-tasting confusion I did two things together that hadn’t happened in a long time: I wrote and then I ran.  Driven by tragedy, I wrote what may have been the best piece I’ve ever posted on Burnpoetry.  Driven by tragedy, I went out, laced up my shoes and nearly killed myself as I attempted to run 1/26th the distance of the Boston Marathon.  It was all I knew how to do.  It was all the solace I could offer myself.  Below, I’ve added the approximate distance and I’ve also attached my post from the day after the bombings.)

Date: 4/16/2013
Distance: 1.00 Miles
Time: Unknown
Location: The Roads of Lincoln
Self-loathing: The least of my concerns.

I used to be a runner.  Past tense.  Past life.  6 years and sixty pounds and two colleges and hundreds upon hundreds of miles that have faded like so many medals purchased with flashing shoes on hot summer nights.

I used to be a runner.  Past tense.  Past life.

Maybe that’s why the explosions that rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday hit me in such a strange, unexpected, place.

Yes, it connected on a terrifyingly human level; a dark pall that settled onto our hearts, a filmy, cloying, oil slick that couldn’t be scrubbed from our minds with all the cleaners or expensive therapy in the world.  Yes, it hammered home fear and pain and confusion, anvil strikes on our slack-jawed faces and pupils dilated to pools of fearful blackness as we watched.  But I expected to feel that.

Yesterday in Boston the lever on some jolting trap door was pulled open and as they fell, we fell.  We all fell.  Stomachs carnival-ride-lurching into our throats and brains and hearts plummeting into a Molotov cocktail that burned red-hot with anger and white-hot with fear.  But I expected that, too.

I felt these emotions in a place that hadn’t been touched in a long time.  A dormant corner of buried emotions and distant nostalgia that had been firmly tied to soles and to souls and to miles and miles of concrete and gravel.

I used to be a runner.  Past tense.  Past life.

And I heard, from two cubicles over, the hushed tones of whispered death-tolls.  And I watched, pieces of my heart ricocheting off the cavity in my chest, office chair suddenly full of pins and needles and uncomfortable fabric that drove me to my feet.  To pace.  To splash cool water on my hot face and to sit once more.

And I felt: a strange, skin-tightening sensation as I watched the brutality unfold.  Smoke and bodies.  Blood and sweat.  And I felt: a stirring, resounding, reverberation of hope and belief as I watched heroes willfully leap into the heat and the horror, emerging with bodies and carrying pain to healing.

I watched as a sporting event was attacked.  As the purity of the most simplistic of complexities, long distance running, was befouled.  As the inner struggle turned to outer glory of marathoning and the pain forged in the heat of pushing oneself to the brink that is solidified over hundreds of miles into a tangible, brutal goal of surviving 26.2 miles turned into something different.  Survival of another kind.

And it hurt.  It really, really hurt.  Man, it fucking hurt.

Watching those runners on the cusp of glory.  And their families, proudly clapping and urging and willing their hard-charging runners down that home stretch.  And the spectators who wanted to show up and show off their city or watch people attempt to overcome the very human limitations that afflict us all or, hell, just bask in one of the near-spring days that make you desperate to be outside.

I watched them do what I used to do and love what I used to love.

I watched them run.

Not from mortal limitations but from their own ugly mortality, that had suddenly come into jeopardy, sneering and bitter.  Not to a personal best or another great story to swap with a few running buddies over a 5 mile jaunt.  Not to that beautiful peak where pain and pleasure and raw emotion co-mingle, as you reach down deep into acid-raining legs and recklessly toss one foot in front of the other, forgetting the real reason you’ve decided to run, but just running anyway.

I watched them run.

From the destruction and darkness that can come seeping out from the worst places in the worst people.  From the hate and ignorance and mind-reeling violence that never seems possible until it’s suddenly strobe-lighting across your screen.

I used to be a runner.  Past life.  Past tense.

Until I saw all the fear and blood and panic mixed together into an unholy concoction of images that were splattered onto the canvas of the Boston Marathon on Monday.  Then it all came rushing back to me.  A jumbled up, criss-crossed pile of sparking wires that were suddenly very raw and very hot.  A painful, mental, inclusion into a group that had come under attack that I couldn’t have seen coming.

I never ran 26.2 miles in one sitting.  I may not fully understand what goes into running for so far and for so long.  But on Monday afternoon you didn’t have to be a runner to understand what was happening.  You just had to be human.

On Monday afternoon, in the midst of the smoking rubble, I saw runners.

I saw runners in police uniforms and flack jackets   I saw runners leap from ambulances and sprint into chaos with no hesitation.  I saw runners helping runners and families running to families.  I saw people running to a new starting line, outside the blood donation centers and I saw the minds of brilliant people running, determined to find out what had happened.

On Monday afternoon we all became runners.

Whomever, whatever, did this may have started running on Monday afternoon.  But I assure you, we’re runners too.  And we will find you.  We will run you down.

I used to be a runner.  Past tense.  Past life.

On Tuesday afternoon, with a heavy heart and a mind that’s spinning on its axis, I’m going to go for a run.

FIN

(*Author’s note: this is a new feature on Burnpoetry, chronicling my attempts to reconnect to my once-favorite sport of long distance running.  For the detailed explanation, click on this link.  I will periodically be retracing my steps and going back to my first attempt at this running-running diary and this is the first ever post so I though we should begin here.)

Date: 1/4/2012

Distance: 1.75 miles

Location: Treadmill, Urban Active Gym

Suicidal Despair Level (on a scale of 1-10): 4

I finally managed to drag my sorry-ass carcass down to the gym.  (*Author’s note: I find that self-deprecation is the only way to survive the downward slide from D-1 athlete to chugging, huffing, sucking-it-in-on-the-beach guy).

I had put off the latest attempt at running since my wedding.  In the days prior to the nuptials I’d actually gotten into some semblance of decent running shape.  That is to say, I could run for roughly 4.5 miles at a decent clip without disintegrating into a wailing mess on the floor of the gym.  Although, I usually toed the line.

In the days after the wedding I feasted.  Love-drunk, and occasionally just plain drunk, I wanted to spend every waking moment with my wife.  It was a great excuse to let the running slide.  There’s almost always a good excuse lurking somewhere in the recesses of my procrastination-addled psyche.  I never had one that felt quite so right, however, and I latched onto this, and extra helpings of junk food in the days between then and now.

Out of excuses.  Out of time.  I decided that I had to lace up the New Balance shoes that my wife had purchased for me nearly 6 months prior and give it another go.  It’s a daunting prospect, getting back on the treadmill after an extended layoff.  Running can be a bucking, pitching, heaving, wild bull.  And I’d been tossed from its back on several occasions with the scars — both mental and physical — to prove it.

I found myself going through the routine.  Packing up shoes and a shirt and a stockpile of extra dignity once mine ran out somewhere around the 800 meter mark, I headed into the gym.  I used to have three things I worried about as I prepared for a workout.  Speed, distance, and a headband.  Only the headband remains.

My once simplified, codified, neatly packed runner’s world has been reduced to loose fitting shorts, and so many supplies for a simple 20 minute run that I look more like a child going to their first slumber party than a grown man heading over to attempt to recapture an elusive love.

The gym was packed with people treadmilling their New Year’s resolutions into reality.  But I foundd a 5×3 foot electronic pathway and prepared for liftoff.

I spent the majority of my pre-run routine stretching my hamstrings.

My back.  At its best, it is a nagging, gnawing ache and at its worst: something that make running a near-impossibility.  At least for someone with my threshhold for pain, which falls somewhere between an 11-year-old girl and a crotchety old man who feels the need to constantly harrass the staff of a nursing home.  I may not actually be that big of a pansy but, again, self-deprecation is a survival tactic for me when discussing running.

My back felt pretty good.  The extreme level of focus I pay to my hamstrings pre-run, and the fact that I lost about 45 pounds since my abosolute rock bottom of obesity during which I resembled a white Reuben Studdard and sweated Pizza Hut marinara sauce, makes my back far more tolerable while running.

While I run on this day I try to watch ESPN to take my mind off the task at hand.  I’ve developed a case of ADD while I run.  In the now-seemingly distant past I was able to cruise along thinking about classes, girls, parties, and competition.  Today I chug along, clinging to bowl game highlights and ESPN talking heads like they’re lifeguards pulling me in from a brutal rip-tide.

I make it 1.75 miles.  Not bad given my penchant for grossly underestimating my fitness level during my first run back and adjusting my first workout to that standard.  The speed I run at on the treadmill is faster than my normal “First Run back pace”, however, and I take a small amount of pride in that.

At this point, it’s all baby steps.  Even if those steps add up to 1.75 miles.

FIN

My name is Chris and I’m a washed up runner.

A has been.

Perhaps a never was, by the cruel standards of a painfully honest sport.

I was pretty good in high school, certainly never great, and I was generally buried somewhere in the middle of the pack for most of my track and field and cross country career at Wichita State.

So this isn’t some epic saga or some Shakespearean fall from atop an ivory tower.  This isn’t a comeback story, because I don’t intend to ever fully “be back” and it sure as hell isn’t a how-to book.  Nope.

This is about loving something.  About passionately, relentlessly, pursuing something — from the first time I sprinted down Washington street in my LA Gear light-up shoes, to the last time I drug ass around the University of Arkansas’ pristine oval in a pair of shoes that weighed less than oxygen.

It’s about the blasphemous belief I once held that the quiet moments spent beating back the inner roar of self-inflicted pain, doubt, and primal, fiery joy, was the closest I would ever come to having a religion.

This is about the moment when I realized that to love long distance running is to commit to an unrequited, dispassionate, sacrificial affair that can devour you with an open mouth, chewing you over with 1/8 inch spikes that make Piranha teeth look like rubber spatulas.  And it’s about the moment when I realized I missed that feeling, rational human thoughts and anti-sadomasochism be damned.

This is about the moment when I found myself watching the aftermath of a bomb going off in Boston, Massachusetts.  The moment when my eyes rimmed with viscous tears and I found myself wondering if maybe that love hadn’t been completely extinguished.  If maybe there was some semblance of heat, some spark yet to leap into flame, buried under years of neglect and self-bitterness.  This is about the belief that down deep in the arterial slot-canyons of my heart, there was something that was stirred once more on April 15, 2013.

This is about fear.  And loathing.  And incremental, fractional gains followed up by horrid tumbles backwards.  But it’s also about getting up.  And trying again.  And stretching.  And stretch marks.  It’s about limping to my office chair, feeling satisfied after a good workout then promptly eating enough calories to negate a half marathon.

In the end, I suppose this will be about me.  And running.  And a love lost but not forgotten.  It will be about a journey and all the pain that comes with it.  But it can also be about you.  And your struggles.  And your knowing, sly nods, when I talk about chafing male nipples or the orgasmic endorphin rush that comes from catching someone down the final straightaway and blowing their doors clean-the-fuck-off.

So tell me what you think.  Chime in.  Write in the comments or share the stories on social media.  Ultimately, running can be the loneliest sport in the whole world.  Or it can bring people together who would’ve never met or never thought they had anything in common.  I’d love to have you metaphorically running alongside, my digital training partners.

I’m going to start at the beginning as best I can.

And while this latest installation in my journey began on one particularly inspired and particularly painful lunch break, post-Boston Marathon Bombing last year, I first had this idea multiple years in the past, when I was going back to the treadmill at a gym in Omaha, Nebraska.

Like most of my aborted attempts to rekindle my long-lost love of running, there will be gaping, Grand Canyon-sized gaps in my retelling so I hope you will bear with me as I attempt to bridge the gap with the famously wordy prose that netted me a C+ average in my English classes in college.

(*Author’s note: There will be a grouping of my first, “Diaries of a Washed up Runner” then I’ll once again put up the blog posts from my most recent stint.)

We begin today with my first ever attempt at “Diary of a Washed up Runner.”

Thanks for reading,

Chris

FIN

Bo Pelini is one busy dude these days.  With getting the Nebraska Cornhuskers prepared for their annual Red/White spring game and trying to manage all the pressures of daily life as a college football coach at a major university he’s got a lot on his plate and even more on his Google Calendar.

Thankfully, due to some inside information we’ve been provided by the NSA’s team of hackers, we have an exclusive screenshot of what Bo’s day looks like.  And, damn, is it going to be hectic.

(*Author’s note: as usual, I apologize for the lousy formatting, but if you click the picture, all will be revealed.)

Bo's Calendar

FIN

Yesterday the internet was set ablaze by a picture of Kentucky coach, John Calipari, meeting in what appeared to be an almost-too-funny-to-be-true abandoned parking garage with Louisville coach, Rick Pitino, and whispering with one another.

Of course they seemed to be greeting each other like to Mob Bosses deciding to come together to put a hit out on the opposition.

Of course they were in a weirdly lit, sparsely populated parking garage.

And, of COURSE they were wearing tracksuits.

This may or may not have been memed to death yesterday, but I am nothing if not slow on the uptake and I am anything but original.  So here, are a few guesses as to what was said between these two legendary coaches as they whispered sweet nothings in one another’s ears.

Cal

Coach Pitino
“Wednesday is arms and back.  I can barely lift my left arm ’cause I did so many.
I don’t know if you heard me counting.  I did over a thousand.”

Coach Calipari
“Oh, of course.  Why, here you have your ubulus muscle that connects
to the upper dorsimus.”

Coach Pitino
“It’s boring, but it’s part of my life.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“Listen, coach, I really only have about 2 minutes.”

Coach Pitino
“Hey, no problem.  That’s more than enough time for me.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal
Coach Calipari
“So then the NCAA investigator says to me, ‘Secondary Violation.’”

Coach Pitino
“HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!”

Coach Calipari
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAH!.”

Coach Pitino
“NCAA Violations, huh?”

Both Coaches in Unison
“BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“So did you take care of that thing?”

Coach Pitino
“What thing?”

Coach Calipari
“You know, that thing with the guy.”

Coach Pitino
“Which guy?”

Coach Calipari
“The, uh, you know.  The guy.”

Coach Pitino
“Oh, that guy? The, uh, the Emmert guy?”

Coach Calipari
“Yeah, that’s the one.  You take care of that thing.”

Coach Pitino
“Oh, yeah.  No, that’s, uh, taken care of.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“Coach, listen, I know we agreed to both use that Malaysian airliner for our own
illegal recruiting operations, but this time you’ve gone too far.  You’ve got to
give it back.”

Coach Pitino
“Have you seen the talent down in Australia?  I’m not giving it back.  Get out
of here.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“Are you sure you’re not Pat Riley?”

Coach Pitino
“Yes.  For the 500th time.  I’m sure I’m not Pat Riley.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“Look, I swear I don’t have it.  I’ve looked everywhere.  I’m really sorry.”

Coach Pitino
“A DVD of He Got Game doesn’t just walk out of my office and disappear.  You were the last one in there. . .”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“Hey, I’ve got some big news.”

Coach Pitino
“Really?  Me too.”

Coach Calipari
“Give me yours first.”

Coach Pitino
“No you go.”

Coach Calipari
“No you. . .”

Coach Pitino
“Alright.  Let’s go at the same time.”

Both Coaches Simultaneously
“I just turned in my résumé to Jim Buss.”

Coach Calipari
“OMG, Jinx!”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Calipari
“No, seriously.  I still have no idea which one is which.  Aaron.  Andrew.
I make ‘em wear nametags at the team meetings.”

Coach Pitino
“Yeah.  I just tell my guys, ‘Guard the one who looks like Peele
from the Key and Peele Show.’”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Cal

Coach Pitino
“I can’t believe we both wore tracksuits.”

Coach Calipari
“I know, right?  Twinsies!”

FIN

‘Twas the night before tourney and all through the state,
Not a Husker was doubting, they all trusted in fate.
The brackets were hung on their cubicles with care,
In hopes they wouldn’t bust immediately and be torn down from there.
 
The day off requests were nestled snugly on bosses desk
And red N’s were firmly affixed to all Husker chests.
With Barkley up on TV speaking straight gibberish,
I’d just settled down to check Tweets and get Twitterish.
 
When out on the lawn there came a sound, loud and hearty
So I leapt to my feet saying, “Now that sounds like a party.”
To my window I ran like Manziel to a model
Like Charlie’s Angels 2, son, I was going full throttle.
 
I threw open the blinds, ready to explore like Magellan
The yard was aglow, like search lights hunting a felon.
What I saw next, I’ll try hard to explain:
There were dudes all unloading from a G5 airplane.
 
With a scrawny little pilot with a build like Harry Styles
I knew in a moment, it must be Saint Miles.
Like they were fastbreaking, his players they came
And he threw off his suitcoat and called them by name.
 
“Now Parker, now Shields, Now Pitchford, Now Benny!
On Gallegos, On Rivers, Petteway get the Henny!
To the Final 4 Boys, to those Hallowed Halls.
Now bust brackets, bust brackets, bust you some balls.”
 
As dollar bills from a rapper making it rain at the club,
When they watch a girl popping while drinking their bubb,
So up to the rim the players flew like hot air getting hotter
And Saint Miles he flew after, like his hero, Harry Potter.
 
And then in a twinkling they tore down the hoop.
They were prancing and dapping and giving “whoop, whoop”s
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Miles came with a gangly bound.
 
He was dressed in shirt and tie, and his patented glasses
And his shoes still had scorch marks from kicking so many asses.
A bag of basketballs he had flung over his back,
And he pulled out a cigarette and tossed me the pack.
 
His glasses how they twinkled! His khakis how creased!
His hands, they were jiving like an extra from Grease!
His mouth was screwed up in a wry little smirk,
He started leaning forward like Miley Cyrus pre-Twerk.
 
He lit up his cig and he sat down in my chair.
He put his feet up and ran his hand through his hair.
He loosened his tie and cracked open a bottle with a pop
In one hand: his Dom Perignon, the other: his laptop.
 
He took another drag on the cig, he practically snuck it,
Looked me dead in the eye, said, “Aaron Craft?  He can suck it.”
With a wink of his eye and a raise of his glass
“Don’t worry,” he said, “We’ll whip Baylor’s ass.”
 
He said nothing further, but his drink?  He attacked it.
Downed the whole thing, then pulled out his bracket.
And placing Nebraska in the championship game
He retreated away like the hairline of LeBron James!
 
He sprang to his jet, with a whistle soft as felts,
The team blew into the night air like the hair of Mike Peltz.
But I heard him exclaim with the mouth of a sailor,
“Happy Tourney to all, now let’s go curbstomp Baylor!”

2-HE0Qyj

FIN

Tim Miles has been super forthcoming with some of his private info the past few days.  For instance, here’s his calendar from last week’s game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tourney.  Now, he’s granted us exclusive access to his iTunes playlist from Sunday night.  Not a lot of variety, it would seem, but who can argue with a little C+C Music Factory, right?  And track 17?  Tim?!?!  You know what?  I think I can speak for all of Nebraska when I say, “We’re good with that.”

(*Author’s note: forgive the grainy quality.  Coach clearly doesn’t have this whole “upload-your-playlist-so-people-can-see-how-hip-you-are” thing and so he just took a quick cameraphone picture.)

20140318-101502.jpg

FIN