Had a nice speed work session last night and feel like I’m headed in the right direction. While doing a 1 mile cool-down run I let my mind wander (which can be dangerous!) and ended up thinking about the marathon. Again. I want this so bad! I imagined how it must feel crossing the finish line and it got me so excited. But then I thought about those who get swept and end up with a DNF and how awful that must feel. “I would just die!”, I thought to myself.
Wait a minute, Laura. Get a grip.
And that’s when I thought about Dachau, a concentration camp outside of Munich I’d visited a few years ago. I could write pages and pages about the experience but let me wrap it up in a few words: it was the worst place I’ve visited. Ever. And those that know me know that I’ve traveled off the beaten path and seen a lot of things that are hard to process. But nothing prepared me for the physical manifestation of misery that still hangs over that place. It was unearthly.
What does this have to do with running and my fear of failure? Let me tell you about what a real “race” is.
Here’s the scenario: you are forced into the courtyard area for one of several roll calls taken each day. You are starving, cold, and weak. You haven’t had more than a few scraps a food each day for months. Muscular atrophy has set in. Your mind is dull due to all of these physical challenges plus the unimaginable horrors you’ve seen first-hand. So you look and see the perimeter fence. You wonder if you can make it. It’s about a 50 yard dash to the fence. You’ll have to avoid the 15 guards surrounding your block, the German shepherds that are trained to attack the second you break formation, and the men with high-powered rifles sitting in the watch towers. You’ll have to sprint and then jump over an impossibly wide and deep trench then climb the steep last few steps to the fence. You can’t be caught: if you’re shot or dragged down by a dog there’s a world of pain awaiting you that’s beyond even the unimaginable horror you’ve already lived.
But for many, it was worth the risk. And they ran. For a chance at freedom? No, they knew that was beyond the realm of possibility. These people ran with the hope they could throw their bodies onto the electric fence and be instantly killed. A respite from this terrible world. Relief at last. A race to end the misery. And so they ran. Some made it, others didn’t. They all died, whether they won their race or lost. It is staggering. This monument was built to commemorate those that perished.
There’s a guy in my running club whose mantra is to “run with joy”. And he lives it! How can I do anything less? I am so blessed to live in a time of freedom in a country of peace and prosperity. I run because I want to. To improve myself. To find myself. To be blessed. And sometimes it’s worth reminding myself of those who ran for far different reasons in a very different time. It would dishonor them to take myself too seriously. And so I will run with joy for myself and in honor of those who had so little joy in their lives.
A little bit of a downer? A litte inappropriate for a blog about my misadventures in running and mommyhood? Good. Sometimes it’s necessary.