Today while on a post-run run in the woods with my dog, there was a man crouched at the side of the trail holding one of those outrageous cameras with a lens so big and long that it could be used to beat someone to death, or it could cause forearm tendinitis for the photographer. Either way: dangerous. My dog sensed this danger and stopped cold as I ran past the man and his camera-weapon-orthopedic disaster. He just stared at the guy, from 20 yards away, mind you, and let out a low, menacing growl. I had to finally go back and coax him to pass, which he finally did with as wide a berth as possible.
Standard poodles are a lot cooler than I thought they were before I really got to know one. But they are not fond of surprises. My poodle (a phrase I never thought I would say) is a stellar runner. He runs 6-8 miles with ease. He chases flocks of birds tirelessly. When no birds are around he tucks in right next to or right behind me and does not stray from our path. He likes to run with me.
My post-run run tonight was testimony to that fact. When I came home in running clothes, having forced myself to do a run from the hospital after work, he was having none of me being in running attire, clearly sweaty and not having invited him to the party.
Lately I have been running with the San Francisco Marathon in mind, as I am all signed up for it. It is a nice race, taking you on a loop around one of the loveliest cities I know, and including a trip over and back over the Golden Gate Bridge. I have done a marathon a year for the past 6 years, and this will be number 7.
If I do it.
This is where the whole humility thing comes in. I have been dining on humble pie a lot recently. I cannot tap into my speed, such as it was, anymore. Where did it go? HELLO OUT THERE?
I recently started taking piano lessons. These are the first lessons I have had in over 25 years. Now I used to be a pretty decent pianist, and I even have a degree in piano performance and stuff. When I left music school for medicine, I actually pretty much stopped playing for almost 8 years. Why play when you cannot play at the highest possible level? Still, I dragged around my piano everywhere we moved and finally decided about 10 years ago to play the damn thing. Recently, it occurred to me I could play it decently if I had some structure and guidance. Humble pie tastes like scales and slow practice. My teacher is fucking cool too.
Sometimes I fight against the reality of my schedule. Work can be like this thing that robs you of your life if you let it be that way. But when I take a nice big bite of humble pie and chew it slowly, with intention, I can see that every minute is worth treasuring. And how lucky am I to have a profession that pays well and allows me to care for people? Also, I just sort of love medicine. It is never boring and there are so many cool diseases out there. You just have to pay attention and do a good physical exam. Surgeons are the coolest, of course, but internal medicine…. let's just say Benedict Cumberbatch would play an internist if he was going to be a doctor.
And then there is parenting. And housecleaning. And weeding the garden. And my baldish head. I am getting fat on humble pie.
My favorite part of the Boston marathon this year was Meb's finish. Classy.The guy was with the leading pack for most of the race. Everyone said he was over at 40. It would be easy for him to be bitter But instead, he grabs the hand of a woman running next to him and finishes the race with style.
And then there is Paula Radcliffe. She is doing London one more time, knowing she cannot compete anywhere near her peak. It is her last marathon. She just wants to run another one. Because that's what runners do.
All this is to say that who really cares how fast you go? Love the run, as my dog clearly does. Love the music, as my highly terrifying piano teacher clearly does. Love the work, because it is worthwhile and it puts food on the table.
Food, like humble pie. Quite delicious once you get over yourself.