Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Glen, Oscar, and Distant Me

When I was a child, Glenn Cunningham was my hero. I recall reading his story and made a connection that has stayed with me all my life. No matter what I have been through, someone has had tougher circumstances and prevailed beyond belief. Glenn suffered horrible burns to his legs yet became a world record holder and possibly broke the 4-minute mile many years before Sir Roger Bannister. Glen's mantra was simple: Never quit.

"Still others - and I am one of those - never give up. We fight and fight and fight. We fight no matter the cost of battle, the loses we take, the improbability of success. We fight to the very end. It's not a question of courage. It's something constitutional, an inability to let go. It may be nothing more than life-hungry stupidity."

- Pi, from "The Life of Pi" (Yann Martel)

Perhaps stupidity, but doubt clouds that excuse.

This morning I have been watching videos of Oscar Pistorius.

Oscar is my inspiration for going down this one-footed path back to running. I knew I could run again with the amputation of my non-functioning and painful paw; I used Oscar as the example to my surgeon and family alike. As a child, Oscar had little choice in his case; I believe if had he a vote in the matter would have arrived at the same conclusion.

Oscar is a champion. We all fall short of perfection, we are human after all. But Oscar comes dangerously close to what all athletes strive for and that is...perfection. I am talking about human perfection, that impossible height reached by sheer will, not letting legs cooked to the bone or being born with no bone at all stop the heart from it's desire.

"Now I will turn the miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen every day."
- Pi, from "The Life of Pi" (Yann Martel)

It amazes me that so many able-bodied people moan and bitch for others to defend their weakness, that being laziness. It seems benign yet it can bring nations to their knees. The absent deep respect for their ancient human roots, the runner who chases prey until one drops from exhaustion and the other feeds their family. They are lost souls who bring others into the caverns of lost hope with no path to the world above and stark freedom.

Pi shared a small boat, lost in the wide Pacific, with a Bengal tiger. Glenn's tiger was a horrible accident; Oscar's tiger was a birth defect; my tiger was a yellow and black school bus.

I have little talent but Glenn and Oscar's life examples help me survive in this small boat with a fierce animal. As I work though my journey, I begin to see through those slits of blue sky at my prey, this lean body of sinew and muscle, small and destructible, yet unwilling to yield.


(Oscar Pistorius image courtesy of

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