My father passed away unexpectedly on October 5, 2004. His spirit did not. It lives on for eternity.
(Read on, if you've got someone who's inspired you to endurance success, you'll relate)
An Endurance Racing Inspiration
He was deeply involved in my endurance racing career, and earned many lasting friendships with racing colleagues and competitors, as he followed me to races in Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Kona. His endurance was demonstrated at these events sharing endless support, encouragement and celebration with us on the course, from start to finish, dawn to dusk, for as long as it took for our journeys to end.
In an incredibly improbable coincidence, it appears that he died at about the same time I, in an office 26 miles away, wrote and submitted the following Op/Ed piece to the Chicago Sun-Times, related to the upcoming Chicago Marathon. (it was published October 8, 2004)
The piece's title -- Heroes -- was about the awesome power in ordinary people who achieve the extraordinary, about how their unstoppable human spirit makes it possible to tackle and overcome challenges that once seemed ridiculously impossible.
In writing the piece, my vision was that the character, vigilance and determination of those runners can be in all of us, inspiring others to aspire to similarly unthinkable heroics, as individuals, partners, parents, sons and daughters, defenders of our safety and freedom, local and world leaders, and, perhaps most importantly, as the ones who're unquestionably there to help the fearful, helpless, dispirited, or lost, to lead them on the journey towards the light, towards a life of hope, health and happiness.
The E.S.P Eulogy
A close friend from Boston arrived days later to attend my father's wake. He read my Op/Ed, and immediately said: what you've written here is in many ways, about your father; it's effectively a eulogy.
And indeed, the spirit and vision of this piece (print version above, text version shared below) framed an exceptionally heartfelt eulogy at Dad's funeral, 10/10/04.
[Originally published by Chicago Sun-Times, October 8, 2004; also shown in image above]
In a time overwhelmed with concerns about terrorism, war, mudslinging politics, and athletic scandal, we need heroes more than ever — people who have a goal, who deliver and who inspire without question, controversy or scandal.
On Sunday, Chicago will witness up to 40,000 heroes — from the world’s best to complete novices — runners who will start, discover, battle and ultimately finish something each and every one of them once thought impossible, even ridiculous; the Chicago Marathon — 26 miles, 385 yards.
The marathon route is an unparalleled city showcase, passing Millennium Park, the Loop, Lincoln Park Zoo, Lake Shore Drive, the Lyric Opera House, The Mercantile Exchange, Greek Town, Chinatown, the White Sox ballpark, Sears Tower, and finally, the Grant Park finish area.
It’s a spectacular journey, but not one without its challenges. There will be a point for every runner Sunday when, in the face of increasing fatigue, aches, pain and the devilishly tempting opportunity to simply stop, they will choose to continue.
Because the runners are there for a reason: to fulfill a once-in-a-lifetime goal; to run a personal best; to disprove those who say they can’t; or simply to do something that at one time seemed beyond reach.
And as they approach the finish line, these reasons will make Sunday’s marathoners heroes to a Chicago that values achievement, to the appreciative charities that the runners support, to their admiring families and children, and yes, somewhere deep inside, to themselves.
Remember, this was once inconceivable.
There is no better place to view the entire human emotional spectrum than at the finish line. There you will see elation, exhaustion, exhilaration, frustration, pain, relief, hugs of excitement and tears of joy. In short: real life.
More important, you will see the everyday heroes who capture the never-give-up spirit of Chicago, temporarily transcending controversial headlines to deliver on an awesome promise that started the day: To prove the impossible is actually possible.