Pax (funcrunch) wrote,

Running for love, running to live

I posted in September about my great experience at the Beat the Blerch half-marathon. What I didn't post about, and didn't find out about until days later, is that a young, apparently healthy man, Evan Sebenius, died running the half-marathon on the second day of this event. Often when this sort of tragedy occurs, an undiagnosed heart condition is to blame. The family hasn't released autopsy results, but did note that Evan had prepared diligently for the event, even hiring a personal trainer.

The running community rallied and created a fundraiser to cover funeral expenses. Within hours, the initial target had been well exceeded, including a $10,000 donation from the race creator, Matthew Inman aka The Oatmeal. The grateful family announced that they would use the funds to finish building a family orchard, and donate the produce to local food banks. I had already contributed a few dollars before hearing this, but was very happy to learn of these plans.

A 5K memorial run in Evan's honor was also set up for Sunday, November 2. I ran it virtually, along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I had posted about it to the event page, but didn't really expect anyone to join me, given the conflict with the US Half Marathon and the fact that I needed to start at 7:30 in order to get to my regular volunteer shift in time. Despite having spent the entire previous week at home with a bad cold, I gave it my all, and finished with a personal record: 28:35, running the third mile in 8:59, another milestone. Running nine-minute miles now feels like running ten-minute miles used to. Certainly the testosterone helps, but I wouldn't be able to run that fast without training.

Running is a necessity to me. It isn't a chore that I do reluctantly like washing the dishes or paying bills. Challenging my heart and lungs and legs while exposed to the elements makes me feel alive. I could never get this feeling on a treadmill in front of a TV monitor. Inman writes about this in his book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances, which I highly recommend. No one has to run an ultra-marathon or even a 10K to get a runner's high, but if you hate running and you've never run more than a mile, you haven't really given it a fair chance.

Of course, some people have orthopedic injuries or live in dangerous areas or have other perfectly valid reasons to work out on specialized equipment. Brisk walking on a treadmill is certainly better than no exercise at all. Regardless, being sedentary is far more of a risk than the very remote possibility that you'll drop dead of a heart attack at mile 12 of a 13 mile race. All of us who rallied for Evan understood this. We love to run, we run to live.
Tags: fitness

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