A little over 5 years ago, I went out for a run. I remember feeling like I was going to die. In fact, some days I look back on that run and wonder if I'm not one of those "he died but came back to life" stories.
That day I ran a 13 minute mile. I only managed ONE mile quite so speedy, the others were relatively pedestrian. A wounded pedestrian at that.
Back then, thinking I would ever run a mile in under 10 minutes seemed impossible. Putting a 10K worth of miles together at that pace - I knew that was way out of my league. But that was 5 years ago - and a little over 4,000 miles and 30 pounds ago.
Yesterday, I ran the Ashland Harvest Run 10K. I knew I wanted to push myself. My fastest previous 10K was 1 hour and 5 minutes. I simply wanted to take a run at that mark.
I was about 1/4 mile into the race when I decided to take one last look at my phone. I had a message from the most unexpected of messengers. It was from my friend Craig Yow. And the message said this:
"Good morning my friend. Hope you have a great run today. Just wanted to say thank you for all the tough love and guidance you gave me back in the day."
And that was it. I hadn't heard from Craig in many years. He was one of the young men I worked with as a counselor some 2 decades or so ago. Craig - to be honest - was one of the angrier kids I ever worked with. Often that anger came out at me.
But I always loved that kid. Always saw something deeper and more peaceful in him.
I heard something at a conference last week. It pertained to schools, but I believe it reflects the program I worked in with Craig. I believe it can reflect our homes and our churches and really - any place. This woman said:
Classrooms can be safe places for kids. Maybe even safe enough for them to explode. Their exploding, it never feels good to us, but emotions are contagious, she said. And emotions can become a source of healing.
I thought about those words as I ran on yesterday. And in terms of healing, I wasn't thinking about Craig. I was thinking about how all of our shared emotions and explosions "back in the day" - how they helped me identify and get to know ME. Those explosions set me on a path of my own healing.
Something I've come to realize about that experience back then is the kids weren't the only ones broken. We were all broken in a way. And the tough love Craig thought I provided. That wasn't a strategy - it was just a reality of life surfacing right before us - and that is: love, when entered into fully - love really is a tough deal.
But yesterday, running after getting Craig's message, reflecting on the kind of kid who would grow up and send someone a thank you note at just the right time - as I was running - I thought, love can be tough, yes, but man love can be beautiful!
When I looked at my watch after my first mile, it said 9:50. I thought, for Craig, I'm just going to see how long I can hold this pace.
I held it through mile 2, then 3 and 4 and 5. And at mile 6, I knew I was about to run a 10K at a single digit pace per mile. The impossibility of that hit me as I ran toward the finish line and as I crossed it running my fastest 10K ever by about 4 minutes.
And as I walked away, I couldn't help but think, thank you Craig. Thank you for all the tough love back in the day. I think it made us both better my man.
In fact, I'm sure it did.
Life is like running.