You’re Gonna Go

by EJN Comments (1) Articles, Commentary

“You Can’t, You Won’t, and You Don’t Stop” 

- Beastie Boys 

My father died from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in 1990 when I was nineteen years old. I remember visiting Dad in the hospital a few weeks before his death. He had no idea who I was but leaned forward and swore at me in the only language he had left, French. This made no sense, of course, unless I was that ennemi fou he insisted I was.

Here was this man, once vigorous, healthy, athletic, younger than his 70+ years by an incalculable number, who now, as the result of this fast-acting, brain-breaking malady, was demoted to a life-form capable of little more than struggle.

Struggle.


As with any traumatic instance, there is inevitably a defining memory that repeats endlessly and with a vaguely cathartic monotony. Mine was my dad sitting in a wheelchair and pointing at me with a single bony finger, eyes filled with a mixture of rage and mortal fright. Whatever my shape in front of him represented, it was something that was shaking him to his core, yet he had to be restrained, as he was undoubtedly eager to go after it, to confront it, to… engage.

And that’s it. Lean in. Struggle. Engage. Never stop.

This all may seem a rather extreme or misplaced preface to speaking of running in any way, but it’s coming soon after Father’s Day and as I face a potential life-affirming/changing/threatening (worst-case) scenario in my own life, I’m making yet more sense out of it.

Even without this little bit of a storm cloud on my own self-involved horizon, it’s memories of these things that help put things in perspective. So where does running fit in? Some may say our sport doesn’t really matter when com-pared to these heavy, real-life situations. Others will tell you running (or any event) is exactly as important as anything else. Instead, I suggest it’s parallel, a byproduct of a particular relationship with mortality. Running is a real life situation that informs, borrows, and aids us through other real life situations. Sometimes it is the situation itself.

I have a good friend who trained like hell for Boston, whipping himself into the best shape of his life, only to have a less-than-stellar result that left him questioning his very being. It really affected him. Just like thousands of us. But, what was his main question following it: when can I lean in again and get back to training?

And that’s it. Lean in. Struggle. Engage. Never stop.

Even my own spring of too much running turned not running became an act of engagement with the thing itself: going to the chiro, reading up on stretching, then actually doing it (anyone who knows me realizes the weight of that happening). I began biking again, running when I felt like I could manage it. Every day started, as it has for the last thirteen years with the question of what could I do for training today and when?

I couldn’t wait to get back to racing, even though I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to go well.

And that’s it. Lean in. Struggle. Engage. Never stop.

So many of us go through this, and we’re conditioned to the point that when we relent for a moment, we feel as if we’re retiring and it will be a matter of mere weeks before we’re morbidly obese and trolling LetsRun. But that’s just it. When I talk to people who run to race and race to run, they are leaning forward. Really, it’s a physical, palpable thing. They are struggling, engaging, fighting. That’s what we all do to the bitter end. This is in no way to say we’re so much different as runners, or better, or anything like that. But, I can say, without doubt, that we have a certain intimacy with this approach to struggle, to engagement that makes us at least understanding of each other, and, perhaps if we’re lucky enough to see, a few other things in life as well.

Because you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop.

Joe Navas is The LVL’s resident philosopher. This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 Issue of Level Renner magazine.  Take some time to revisit it today (for free), then maybe check out our latest issue which dropped on Monday.

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One Response to You’re Gonna Go

  1. Ayush says:

    This article hits me hard. So many times due to trivial reasons we can give up on things, when there are people just hustling through after having so many personal issues.

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