As someone who has only recently turned her focus toward creative writing, I’ve been searching for inspiration. I’ve written technical material for years but now that I have the time to write about whatever I want, I’m struggling to discover what that is. Today, I found inspiration in my friend and fellow runner, Philip Demoss.
Philip is 74 years old and still running competitively. He is the runner I hope to be. If you’re not a runner, let me assure you that being able to race in your 70’s is no small task. If you look at just the runners who finished the Boston Marathon this year, there were 161 finishers in the 70 to 74 age group and only 44 who were older than that. That’s out of a total of 26,400 runners. If you control for demographics in the overall population, it’s even more remarkable.
I should also mention that he is blind in one eye and has only partial vision in the other. When I asked him how this affects his running, he said he’s disappointed that he can’t admire the beautiful scenery here in Colorado while he runs. Because of his limited depth perception, he has to concentrate on the ground in front of him. This also makes him really good at spotting loose change.
What does this have to do with finding the inspiration to write? A lot, actually. Running is the ultimate metaphor for just about everything (in my biased opinion). It’s about doing something you love even if you can’t do it as well as you would like or even if you feel like you’re falling short of your potential.
Both running and writing require training and practice. Philip is a naturally gifted athlete, although he’s too modest to admit it. He enjoys the thrill of competition and when he’s racing, he gives it everything he has. He admits, though, that he doesn’t always like to put in the training required to perform well. He just wants to be good at it without having to try too hard. Hmm. I can relate to that.
Above all, I admire the joy with which this man runs. Every time I run with him, he is always smiling. He credits his longevity as a runner and his cheerful disposition while doing it to two things. First, he never overdoes it. Although he runs consistently, he doesn’t burn out mentally or physically because he keeps the intensity of his training modest. This is a lesson I seem incapable of learning. It’s all too easy to kill your passion by pursuing it too fervently. Second, he surrounds himself with supportive people. Yes, being partially blind means he needs help from his family and friends to get around but that’s not what I mean. “Running around a circle is boring,” he told me. What keeps it enjoyable is the companionship of “terrific” people. Running is no more a solitary activity than writing is. I suppose it can be, but that would be boring, in Philip’s words.
Tomorrow morning, I will set my alarm and get up early. I’ll meet my friends for a long run and I know Philip will be there. And I will keep writing, frustrating though it may be at times. Inspiration is a call to action and without action, it’s just a whim.