What are your thoughts on this...
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Louis Zamperini would swipe the food, stealthily, and then run like hell. He ran from the cops; he ran from the store owners; he ran from angry residents brandishing guns. The notorious street tough outran them all. He'd steal any food he could get his hands on; he was always staging pranks and getting into fistfights. Friends and neighbors didn't expect him to live beyond his childhood years. And on numerous occasions, they were almost right.
The son of Italian immigrants growing up in Torrance, California, Zamperini was perpetually in hot water with authority. He was often escorted home late evenings by the police. Probably few, if any, of those who knew him expected the delinquent to grow up to become an Olympic athlete and one of America's greatest distance runners. Certainly, no one expected him to become a WWII bombardier, plane crash survivor, POW, and survivor of post-war turmoil.
But, that's exactly what happened. Laura Hillenbrand's extraordinary book, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption," chronicles the incredible life story of a man who lived through one catastrophe after another and still emerged with his dignity and humanity intact.
It all started when his brother made him join the high school track team. Zamperini hated running, but after rigorous training, he soon realized he had the gift of speed. Running provided him the perfect outlet for his aggression; instead of using his fleet feet for mischief, he was now setting national and world records in the sport. He ran the mile in 4 minutes and 21.2 seconds. Everyone expected him to be the first person to break the 4-minute mile.
In 1936, he ran for U.S. Olympic team in the 5000 meters in Berlin. Although he finished in eighth place, his final lap time of 56 seconds, an unprecedented time for a final lap of that distance, caught the attention of many people, including that of Adolf Hitler, who watched in his stadium balcony. The two met face-to-face. "You're the boy with the fast finish," Hitler told him while shaking his hand.
War ended his running career. Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941. One day, his plane experienced mechanical difficulties and it crashed into the ocean. He and his crew spent 47 days adrift at sea. They lived off albatross and fish they caught; they were shot at from above by Japanese bomber planes; they were hunted from below by sharks; they were nearly swallowed whole by a sea storm. By the time the Japanese Navy found them and took them to their prison camps, the men were emaciated shells of their former selves.
All of this is told in remarkably fast-paced and thrilling way. Hillenbrand, who also wrote "Seabiscuit," manages to give her readers the hard facts of history while fleshing out an absorbing and entertaining story. She avoids embellishing the facts and getting too carried away with the poetic license that biographers sometimes take when filling in the gaps of historical records. Nothing that is written in this book, she tells us in the introduction, is unsupported by historical evidence. She didn't make it up.
She didn't need to. The truth is incredible enough. Not many could endure what Zamperini did and even live to tell the tale. He is a shining example of true heroism. His is a story of how an ordinary kid from a troubled background can grow up to achieve extraordinary things. A tough and resilient man, Zamperini is still going strong. At 93 years-old, today he travels around the world giving lectures. The fast kid from Torrance is still as spry as ever.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Today I got a new pair of Inov-8 Roclite 295s. The goal is to gradually progress towards a natural running form. My old pair of Asics turned out to be a joke. I found that out very quick after a few runs here in the Grand Tetons. Hopefully, these shoes will help me take my running to new levels.
Friday, June 3, 2011
When I see a runner gliding down the side of the street or up a winding trail, I can't help but imagine what might be going on in his head - what thoughts are churning through; what problems being worked out? Are there demons he can't quite shrug off (and don't we all have demons of one variety or another)? What worlds does he haul the weight of on his shoulders?
The solitary nature of the sport of long distance running seems to attract the most introspective athletes - people who are unafraid of spending long hours with their thoughts, however troubled those thoughts may be. Non-runners often ask, "Doesn't it get boring running for hours on end?" What they don't understand is that clearing the mind can be good for the soul, and it often encourages creative thinking. While we run, we come up with solutions to the various problems in our lives. We seek answers and we find them.
But, in a society where being alone is often mischaracterized as being "weird," or even worse, "sick," it's hard to explain the seductiveness of the lonely trail. Being alone takes courage. When I ran my first trail ultramarathon, I was struck by how psychologically invigorating it was spending hours alone with your thoughts. The task was daunting, at first. Only the most courageous souls dare to look beyond the dark alcove of their weaknesses to find the light that makes them whole.
It's a dangerous place to be - a shadowy wasteland of broken promises, unrealized dreams, painful secrets and sins for which we whisper for forgiveness in quiet rooms or over the golden glow of a candle. It's a place not even the sacred materials of religious ceremony can provide access to because in and of themselves, those materials are dead.
Do not get lost, and do not despair. It's easy to be overwhelmed by your shortcomings. Always remember that the dark side of the humanity is overpowered by the luminosity of human goodness. Let the unification of body and soul through the rhythm of running - legs pumping, lungs working, heart racing - be the shining blade that pierces through the dark. Give form to your religion. Motion is your prayer. Sweat, your sacrificial offering. Allow your hopes to take flight; make mistakes and grow from them. Never regret the process. Every misstep is essential to the journey.
The next time someone criticizes you for wanting to be alone, just remember that happiness is destined for him who knows himself best. A quiet, reflective soul is the path to enlightenment. Take time during your run to stop and just be still. Be still. Listen. Take in the solitude. Let it hold you. Allow yourself to feel alone. Get to that special place where nothing else matters but the vibrancy of the life that flows through your veins and fills the canvas of your mind.