Long Train Running: A Chicago Marathon Story | Chapter 5 — Thoughts Per Mile

Long Train Running: A Chicago Marathon Story | Chapter 5 — Thoughts Per Mile

“I’d think a lot. About Mama and Bubba, and Lieutenant Dan. But most of all, I thought about Jenny. I thought about her a lot.”
— Forrest Gump

The muscles and joints and lungs and heart begin working in concert once they realize you’ve taken them out for a run. Sometimes all they need it some dynamic stretching or a short, slow warm up jog to get in line. Sometimes they drag their feet a mile or so before getting on board. And once they do, you can set the body to cruise control — making sure to mind your footing and keeping up with your hydration. It’s in this cruising groove that the mind gets to stretch its legs and play.

The mind wanders with serious velocity. Like a suggestion taken from an audience at an improv show, all the mind needs is one tiny nudge. That song lyric right there! That can start the mind’s own distance journey to a yet unknown end point. A lot of good ideas can form or be found during these runs. The trick is to remember them once you’re done or figure out how to jot down notes while maintaining a nine-and-a-half-minute mile pace. Voice memos may work, but even the minor mechanics of that can monkey up the groove.

My free thinking begins the same each time I’m out. It’s a hyper-dramatic imagination of what will come of me if the pain in my knees appears too early in the run. My mind takes a nose dive into panic as I consider the gravity I’ll face if I fail, if I’m weak and cannot not just complete the Chicago Marathon but not ever be able to complete a long run with the team on Saturday mornings. When I catch myself diving faster, getting closer to crashing and burning in my own mental panic, I take myself out of cruise control and remind my mind that there’s still time to get strong. That I’ll be fine. That I may have even had a breakthrough just yesterday when I went fifty minutes without even a hint of pain. Be cool, mind, be cool.

I check my gait and consider my strike to be sure I’m not getting sloppy. Once all things are looking and feeling AOK, I reengage the cruise control and off I go…

Scenery helps. It inspires. It’s like that improv audience show suggestion. But no matter what the view is, if you’ve been stuck on a theme, the view will only encourage that theme.

Youth… My youth. The decades that have passed. The experiences that came when I was tender and new. Experiences that have happened since and may happen again, but they’ll never feel quite like they did when they were the first time or when there was less to lose and far, far less scar tissue. As I clip past the miles, it becomes clear to me that life experience can have a way of dulling life’s experiences. Like running a marathon, it takes a lot of strength and self-awareness to overcome that mopey thought and figure out new ways to enjoy familiar wonder.

Like falling in love. Or your six hundredth first kiss. Or yet another incredible orgasm. Or the sound of the ocean. Or the sunrise pouring over a glass lake. Or…

… And then it’s gone. Something new takes over.


The mind wanders with serious velocity. Like a suggestion taken from an audience at an improv show, all the mind needs is one tiny nudge.


What fun it would be to be a long-haul trucker. The people I’d meet. The things I’d see. The boredom I’d experience. Wow! If I die at the end of this thing, or halfway through, or riding my bike to a team run, what kind of man would my wife marry? Who would be the major male influence in my son’s life? Will my dog Molly ever be comfortable shitting outside?

Holy shit. That girl looks like an ex-girlfriend. It can’t be her. She looks like the girlfriend did twenty years ago. Ah… I miss twenty years ago. I don’t miss that girlfriend but I miss the wonderment of being twenty years old with that girlfriend. Everything was new. Everything. And we were under twenty-one so even having a single beer brought with it a level of thrill I can’t ever recapture again because I’ll never be too young to drink again. I wonder if that girlfriend ever ran a marathon.

Did I put on enough sunscreen? Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer.

I’ve never seen The Lion King all the way through from start to finish. I have no interest in it. I’m sure I will at some point, but if not, that’s okay.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s album Homebase is really, really good. Will Smith should have stuck to rapping. I’m not a fan of his movies. Hancock was fun. Independence Day was shit. Will Smith makes a terrible Robin Williams. 

I think I really love my wife. I’d like to go sailing with her soon. Maybe this afternoon.

What’s that? Five miles to go? Fuck. I can make this. Twenty-year-old David could have made this. I’m not much different than he was.


Please help Gilda’s Club Chicago in its mission to provide free cancer support to anyone impacted by cancer, by making a donation to my Team Gilda running page. I appreciate your help. More importantly, so do the thousands of Gilda’s Club members who would be lost without it.


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Notes from the Post-it Wall | Week of July 7, 2019

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