I was a terrible older brother when I was a kid. I used to beat on my younger brother Alex for no reason. I would shove grass down his shirt. I would break his Lego spaceships. I would play Final Fantasy in the middle of the night just so I could be a couple of levels ahead of him. I would insult him for no reason other than to make myself feel bigger. Classy bullying bullsh*t.
One of the reasons I train so hard is to punish myself for my past crimes. I've hurt a lot of people and I've done a lot of awful things. I realize that a lot of those things were done when I was much younger and much more stupid. I realize I've grown tremendously since then and would never do those things again. But I still have that guilt and I still batter myself daily because of it. No small part of that guilt is over how I treated my brother Alex, even though he's long since forgiven and forgotten, because he's just that awesome.
One of my biggest fears had been that what I did would hurt his self-confidence and make it more difficult for him to prosper and achieve his passions in life. I'm glad to say that I was very wrong. He's grown to be an amazing individual, loved dearly by all of his many friends. He's a talented musician, a gifted masseur, a very generous soul, and is well on his way to becoming an amazing athlete as well!
On Thursday, Alex ran the Tromptown half-marathon. I paced him the whole way, cheering him on to his PR (Personal Record). His goal (or at least what I told him he was totally capable of) was to run it in under 1:50. It's a hilly course. You may recall that the worst race of my life was at Tromptown last year. And though the weather wasn't as awful as last year, it was still quite warm. It's not a PR course by any stretch.
Alex finished in 1:49:47.
He maintained an utterly steady pace of 8:30 for the first 9 miles. And whereas most folks started to dwindle by this point, especially on the huge nasty hill at mile 11, Alex sped up. He managed to shave off the couple minutes he needed to beat his goal. I couldn't even keep up with his sprint finish in the last 100ft! Truly I was blown away by his strength.
Alex is training for Empire State Marathon in October. I didn't blog about it, but I ran Empire State last year, so I know it's a very nice course (with a nice medal!). I wrote him a training plan. I'm not a coach, so don't ask me to write you one. But I want Alex to have every chance of success at the marathon. So I wrote him the entire plan on a scrap piece of paper with yellow marker. And he's been following it!
I know his dedication. He's been lifting regularly for a while now. He has what it takes to train every day. And I could see the commitment in his eyes. He wants to not only run it, but to crush it. The only other marathon he's run was Lake Placid five years ago (again with his big bro). We were sorely underprepared for that marathon. But on October 8, we're going to run Empire State together, and I have no doubt he can finish in under 3:45.
|Someday he'll even outlift his big bro!|
And that won't be the end either! He's getting excited about the idea of doing triathlons next year. I bought him a Garmin 920xt. I taught him to swim freestyle in the pool, and we've been swimming every Friday at 6am while he's in town. He's seen my many stories and pictures, and he knows how much fun tris are (especially sprints). I'm excited to toe the starting line with him in a wetsuit (which I'll likely also get for him).
Perhaps I'm making up for being a bad brother when I was younger. Certainly there's a selfish aspect: A desire to atone for my sins and assuage my own guilt. But that's not what goes through my head when I watch him run, and when he talks with excitement about his future goals. No, something else goes through my mind.
Somehow he's navigated all the pain and challenges of life to make it not only positive for him, but positive for those around him. He's a beacon of joy and energy, and you can't help but feel intoxicated by his presence. Though he may be learning from me about running and training, I'm learning from him what it takes to be a happy and loving human being.
And as hectic as my life gets, or however angsty I may feel, I know that Alex (and also my amazing sister Kate) will always be there for me. It brings me a great deal of joy and solace to know that as long as the two of them are in my life, everything's OK. I may have the worst race of my life, but a night of music and absurd silliness with the two of them will wipe it all away.
And when Alex crosses the finish line at Empire State, I will have yet another reason for joy and pride.
|A face anybody can be proud of...|