Growing up, I had a fond fascination with the creepy, the crawly, the scaly and the macabre. I can’t blame my dad for feeding my mind with cheesy 80s creature features. Pirannah,Alligator, Critters, Godzilla … they all ended the same way, too. Some hero or anti-hero saved the girl, the family, the town, the world, and defeated the creature(s).
When the screen faded to black, I was probably supposed to feel a sense of justice or safety, but I usually just felt bad for the creatures. During play, with my best friend Mikie, the good guys always won, no matter how strong, cunning, and cool the bad guys.
Michelangelo and Donatello always beat Shredder and Krang.
He-man and Battle Cat always beat Skeletor.
It was justice being served in a castle of couch cushions.
But as I grew, so did my understanding and awareness of how the world around me really worked. The good guys didn’t always win. Some questions are never answered. Justice isn’t always (justly) served. The truth may or may not be out there.
The more I poked around and stirred up ideas, the muddier it became. I longed for the cookie cutter answers found at the end of cheesy b movies.
That’s when I found running: a system of giving and receiving.
One of returns and exchanges. Risks and rewards. A system over which I felt control in ways I haven’t felt before.
The track, the road, and trail may as well become our great levelers, the stages where good and evil have an equal shot at victory.
With both feet planted firmly on the ground, we are who we are. But when we stitch together those split seconds when we are airborne, we become who we want to be. We are heroes and anti-heroes, protagonists and antagonists. On the starting line, we choose our battles and nemeses while fighting for the same cause.
What’s good? What’s evil? Right and wrong? What are the answers?
I still don’t know. We may never know.
But through running, we can understand what it means to be better.