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The chosen path

When where you are is where you want to be.

It's a safe bet that I talk to more runners than just about anyone else on the planet. With traveling 300 days a year, my overflowing e-mail inbox, and my own curiosity, I communicate with thousands of runners a year.

It's interesting because I meet so many different kinds of runners: old and young, thin and not so thin, good and awful, and everything in between. But despite their differences, most have one thing in common: They're either running to or from something. Some are running to a new PR or a new distance or a new life that they are convinced will be better than their current PR or distance or life. Others are running from a bad relationship, an addiction, or an unhealthy lifestyle.

Still others are running from something more challenging. When I first met Gill from Toronto, she was bald and frail from the chemotherapy she was receiving to help her battle leukemia. More than a year later, we celebrated together after she completed the Honolulu Marathon. She was pulling away from the disease that was trying to kill her.

For runners like Gill, every run has a reason. Every mile is a piece of a giant physical and emotional jigsaw puzzle that, when completed, promises to reveal happiness - a picture of them being healthier or faster or thinner. And every day they strive to fit in one more piece.

But every three-miler doesn't have to be part of a grander scheme to shed pounds or become fitter in order for it to be a worthy accomplishment. It's also important to find the joy in today's run, even if it doesn't markedly advance us in our pursuit of something better. The magic of running is that it has inherent value of its own. We need to celebrate the accomplishment of every run - no matter how far or how fast - and not let the positive drive for self-improvement become an all-consuming obsession with constant improvement.

When I started to run, I was in between the smoker-drinker-overeater and the healthy, active person I wanted to be. After months of running, however, I was no longer content with just running. I wanted to go farther - and then, faster. There was no way to be at peace with what I had already accomplished because there was always something else I thought I had to achieve. I was frustrated at not being where I wanted to be - and that meant never enjoying where I was.

Yes, we all need goals. I need to know that there is something out there that I want to do that I haven't done yet. But I've given up on living in a constant state of in between. Whatever it is, however far I can run, however fast I can run, it's where I am today. I may be able to be more, but I'm not going to spend the rest of my life in between yesterday and tomorrow.

Waddle on, friends.

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