I Quit, You Win


I am, what some cultures refer to as, a “quitter.”

That is not to say that I quit everything I do, but I am pretty easily swayed to. I’m not real big on “overcoming adversity” or “trying really hard.” I’m more of a take it as it comes kind of guy. And if that thing is too difficult... meh. I'll just try something else.

Like tonight. I’m pretty much out food in my apartment except for some frozen chickens and vegetables. So instead of making something elaborate like pasta, or doing something difficult like defrosting chicken, I just went downstairs to the bodega in my building and bought milk and Cinnamon Toast Crunch to eat for dinner.

This give-up-type attitude is not something new. This has pretty much always been my modus operandi. In pretty much every grade I was always a straight B student. You need somebody to get an 82 on your test? I’m your man.

There is probably no greater example of my commitment to mediocrity than when I worked as a furniture deliveryman at the Oak and Brass House.

I was 17 at the time, and my job was basically to assist my boss in delivering enormous pieces of wooden furniture that needed to be assembled on site.

I was good enough at the job, I mean as good as you can be at carrying heavy things upstairs. But where I didn’t excel was the “how are we going to do this” part of the job.

Often we would be moving a dining room table, a bed, or some other massive object and arrive at a challenging point of entry. Perhaps we would have to move around a tight corner, down a narrow staircase, or over a ridiculous couch. And the conversation would always go the same way.

Boss: Hey Rich do you think we will be able to fit this?
Rich: No.
Boss: What if we angle it?
Rich: I don’t think so.
Boss: Do you want to try?
Rich: Not really.

But because this was his business and not my own, we would always try to make it work. And you know what? It fit.

Every. Single. Time.

So you can imagine my attitude when it comes to things like marathons. I have a friend who ran a marathon a couple of years ago and afterwards he said to me:

Rich, you have to run a marathon.

No actually. I really don’t.

There are many, many, MANY things I would rather do than run a marathon.Things that I hate with a fiery passion that burns like a cosmic ulcer in the soul of my soul.

So when my friend Sophie told me she would be running the New York City Marathon this weekend, you can imagine my excitement at being a part of one of New York City’s finest events, without actually having to participate.

What could be better than cheering on your friend while she runs around the 5 boroughs of New York... on purpose!

I was pretty pumped; this gave me a really good reason to watch a classic New York tradition. I was also really attached to it because I had a horse in this race. Not that my friend Sophie is a horse. In fact, she is quite the opposite of a horse. And its not so much a race as it is a massive army trotting into war, like the Crusades.

So basically it's like your friend is in the crusades. So I was very excited. Seeing as Sophie was participating in one of our civilization’s most incredible feats of health and fitness, I made sure to counter balance that by setting up shop at a pub along the route and drinking beers from 9 am until I saw her.

Now people had told me that the race was emotional.

Yea right, emotional. It’s people running. I see people running every day. I have literally seen a person running in every place I have ever been.

Except maybe church. People don’t run in church. But I did see an altar boy show up late once, so no, my original statement stands.

But running is just really fast walking. If I need to be somewhere fast, I don't run. I take the train, or a cab... or I just don't go.

So people running? 26.2 miles? I mean does anything sound more boring to watch in your life? Maybe if there was a stampede involved, and the people running had to run to avoid being impaled by a rhinoceros or a stegosaurus, yea, now that sounds like damn good entertainment. But just running?

Well, after only 20 minutes of race watching I already felt the rush. This was exciting.

We were set up along 1st avenue, which starts mile 16. We were inside the bar drinking and eating and we would pop out when a crowd came by. The first people we saw come by were the wheelchair racers. They were incredible. The feat of strength it took for them to complete the marathon was amazing in and of itself.

But I across the way from us there were roughly 25 Spaniards set up with banners, and pom poms and a huuuuge Spanish flag.

So when we saw a wheelchair racer with the Spanish flag roll by I knew it would be an awesome reaction. I didn’t expect to feel emotional. But I did. And watching the racer pump his fist as he passed the crowd, well, it kind of choked me up.

And after a half dozen more experiences like that throughout the day, I realized, I was involved in this race. And we hadn’t even seen Sophie go by yet.

 You hear it in anecdote, you see the stories in the news, but for so many people this isn’t a race, it’s a battle. A personal triumph. A vindication for a past loss. A tribute to close friend who passed away. The looks on the faces of the people who run past tell the entire story. There is nothing I can write that could possibly elucidate the significance of this race for the people in it.

They wear their names on their shirts so you can call them out and cheer them on. You scream out their country, or shirt color, or once, “HEY GUY IN A CHICKEN COSTUME!”

It’s exciting, it’s enthralling, and it’s impressive.

So by the time Sophie ran by, deep into the 16th mile of the race we were elated and super excited to see her, and vice versa. Heck, she even leaped into a beautiful jump of smiling joy when she saw us.

And while I have extremely impressive friends who do incredibly impressive things, I had never been more proud of my friend in my life. Here she was, after 2 hours of running, looking amazing, looking like she had hardly just begun.

She finished the race at a personal best that blew away her last time and we were all so excited for her.

And while it was extremely cool just to know somebody who ran the whole marathon, it is even cooler knowing that somebody did something so incredibly physically difficult and mentally challenging... and didn’t quit.

You rock Sophie.