The 2012 NYC Marathon was scheduled for November 4th. Normally I wouldn’t have known, but this year my wife’s brother decided to take a shot at earning a place through the lottery system, and won. What’s more, he chose to commemorate this event by inviting everybody to come watch, and family agreed to fly in from as far as LA, Canada, and Florida. My brother-in-law was flying in from Turkey. We were all incredibly excited for him, because this truly marked a milestone for him: he had lost nearly 80lbs in under a year, and was ready to make further serious changes in his life. The marathon was to be the turning point—and then it was canceled. For many this could have represented a collapse of their dreams, but my brother-in-law showed us all how profound his changes had been, and how much marathon running had fortified him through his wonderful reaction.
My brother-in-law wasn’t an alcoholic, but he was fond of drinking. He worked at a very lucrative but not very stimulating job, and over the years had packed on weight. Prone to melancholy and introspection, we all hoped that he would one day kick his life into gear and seize the moment, find a way to live his dreams. That happened one day last year when he simply went out for a long walk. He did so again the next day, and the next, and slowly realized that he loved exploring his city. Soon he was running, and the pounds started to come off. He began to eat better, quit drinking, and ran a half marathon.
We were stunned, elated, and when he announced his decision to run the NYC Marathon, we all agreed to come. Yet when Hurricane Sandy hit, we were on tenterhooks—would the marathon still take place? Together we all went with him to the convention center where he picked up his running packet, and posed for photographs before the murals and signs, proud of what he had accomplished.
Yet walking back to our rented apartment that evening he stopped at the sight of the news on a TV screen within a store: the marathon was cancelled. Like that, only two days before the race, it was finished. Over. He would not run. He would not get to commemorate his dream. His accomplishments. There would be no pinnacle to his training, no crowning glory. All of us had assembled to watch him run, and now there was no race.
Many people would have been crushed. Would have become bitter, would have cursed and perhaps even forsworn their desire to change. My brother-in-law didn’t. He grew silent, and that night he went for a solitary run. Then he gathered us all together and told us that what mattered to him was that we had all come to support him, the love that we had shown, the desire to cheer him on. That even though he wouldn’t get to run the race, he would still continue with his plans: he would quit his job in 2013 and enroll in a University to further his studies in Russian as he had always dreamed.
I was truly impressed. Running had sparked a cascade of changes within him that even such a crushing disappointment couldn’t derail him. He remained calm, strong, resolute. He celebrated being with us, and stuck to his commitments. All because he went for that first walk that one cold morning. Cheered, impressed, we celebrated his decision to change his life, and left when the weekend was over even happier than if he had finished the race.