*********************************************

RUNNING IS THE CANVAS, WRITING IS THE COLORS

*********************************************

By Michael Selman

Who has ever been able to adequately answer the question of

why a runner runs? A singular answer cannot do the query

justice, because everybody runs for different reasons.

Even the same individual runs for different reasons

throughout his or her running career, if, indeed, running

is to endure.

I first started to run primarily for the T-shirts. That's

the honest truth. I was always an avid T-shirt collector to

begin with, and earning the coveted cloak, as opposed to

buying it, added an emotional element to this passion. The

race name, distance and date prominently displayed amongst

the sponsors screamed of a personal victory by its very

proclamation.

Although the connection is still there, a T-shirt alone has

not been enough to endure through these past 15 years on

the roads. The next passion element to this running life

was to better my times. PR's were easily achieved when I

was a rookie. In fact, I could count on lowering the bar

just about every time I raced, for the first few months.

After a few years, PR's faded into memories of faster

times. There still had to be a passion to drive me to

continue. Running had to take on a new meaning for me.

Running became my canvas. A sacred time for me and me

alone, to think about whatever I wanted to think about. I

also discovered, at about the same time, that I could write

about my running thoughts and people would appreciate the

thoughts I was thinking. If running was my canvas, then

the written words that followed must then be my colors.

Funny how I never thought myself the artist, but there was

one, fighting to break out of a linear mold.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a week off from work, so I

could spend time with my daughter, who had flown down from

her home in North Carolina for a visit. She was once

Daddy's little girl, but now, she has grown into quite the

beautiful young woman of 13. As she has matured, we have

grown more distant, which, I suppose is to be expected.

The things that go through a 13-year old girl's mind are

not easily shared with her father.

We planned several things for the week she was here. We

went shopping, which is a passion of hers right now, but we

didn't talk too much. Neither one of us knew quite what

our common ground was any more. We went to Stone Mountain,

and checked out a rock where everybody sticks their gum on

the way up or down the granite trail. Her name, which had

been scrawled with a piece of Juicy Fruit last year when

she was living with me, was still etched in the rock, for

all to see. We laughed at its endurance, but we didn't

talk about anything too important that day. After about

five minutes of walking around the top of the mountain, she

was ready to go. She had seen what she had come for, and

the trip to Stone Mountain was complete. As we drove home,

I was thinking that we should have spent more time there,

and was a little frustrated. We didn't talk much on the

way home.

The next day was opening day for Six Flags, so we went.

Everyone else in the Southeastern United States went, too.

It took us an hour and a half to get off the exit to the

park, another half-hour to park the car, and about 45

minutes to purchase our tickets.

Up until the incident I'm about to tell you about, I used

to have a couple of other passions. Waiting in traffic and

waiting in lines. I hated them both with a similar

passion. My daughter and I had already waited in one or

the other for three hours this day, just for the privilege

of entering the park. My daughter, who was bored after five

minutes at Stone Mountain, seemed to be pretty accepting of

this chain of events. I was already fit to be tied.

One inside the park, we got in the first line we saw, which

was for the "Scream Machine." Just as we nudged to the end

of the line an official from the park stated that the wait

from this point in the line was approximately three hours.

Even having already forked over the money, I would have

left in an instant. But I looked at my daughter, and her

eyes told me she wanted to wait. I smiled, and asked her

the one question, which created the most meaningful dialog

that took place between us that week. It was an exchange

which has impacted me greatly since then I asked a simple

question, she gave a simple answer, and my life has

somewhat changed as a result.

My question was simply this. "Why were you ready to leave

Stone Mountain after five minutes, but you are willing to

tolerate traffic and lines for six hours just to ride a

roller coaster?" Her answer was simple, but poignant.

"Because," she said, "There is a reward at the end."

Wow, I thought. All of a sudden, I didn't mind the wait

any more. I was watching my daughter enjoying a passion.

A good, wholesome, gratifying passion. She loves roller

coasters. I always knew that, but I never understood the

passion behind it. From that point on, we talked, we

laughed, and we enjoyed each other's company for the rest

of the day. I could care less about the lines.

I have the same type of passion for running and writing. I

get up at ungodly hours on weekends to drive to places I

never even heard of, just so I can run a race. I plan each

day around when I am going to energize myself with my run.

And then, while I am out there, I absorb every element of

what is out there in the world through all of my senses. I

think about what I can learn from my run, and how I might

be able to look at something differently than I ever have

before. It is all there for me to absorb, every time out.

And then, I write about them.

I thought about my daughter's observation, about the reward

at the end of the line. When I tucked her in to bed that

night, exhausted from our day at Six Flags, she hugged my

neck and said "Dad, I had a great day. Thank you." Was

that my reward at the end of the line? It could have been,

but my reward came long before that. I want to share with

you what my 13-year-old taught me that day.

She taught me not to hate lines so much. Even a marathon

runner does not look at the medal around his or her neck as

the sole reward of a hard fought battle. The prize is

inclusive of so much more than that. The months of

training, and the sacrifices it entails are a big part of

the victory, in reflection. The race itself, from the

starting line to the carrot dangling 26.2 miles away, is,

in essence, " the line." But it's not just a vehicle to an

end. The line, any line, is something to be savored every

step of the way. It's camaraderie with others who are

struggling and hurting every bit as much as you are. Their

reasons for being in the line may be different, but the

pain is shared.

Oh, sweet daughter, I have something to tell you. That day

at Six Flags was much like a marathon. We were on the line

for different reasons. I would not have even been in the

line if not for you. But I got my reward before you did

that day. Just spending those six hours with you before we

ever hopped on the "Scream Machine" has changed the way I

look at lines. I came to understand one of your passions

that day. From that point on, for me, that line was my

whole reason for being there that day. When we finally got

on the roller coaster, you got your reward, too.

And when you hugged me that night, and slowly closed your

eyes with a look of complete contentment, you provided me

with another reward. You had given me the realization that

lines is only a bad thing if you view them that way.

Depending on the angle you choose to observe from, you can

find something positive in anything you encounter. Whether

the reward is at the end of the line, or somewhere within,

you will find it if you look hard enough. Why do I run

these days? Because I choose to view it as a time for

introspection. I take that time to find the positive

elements of a negative situation. I use it as a time to

think about how I can be a better husband, a better father,

a better friend, a better person. I find closure to things

in my running, and I also create new thoughts. I run

because there is always something to learn while you are

running, if you go in to it with an opened mind. I run

because it is a passion.

Why do I write? Because I have an ability to do so in a

way that people can relate to. I like to elaborate on my

thoughts through the words I create. I always learn

something about myself when I write. If I can touch and

enrich someone else with my writing, then I have been a

successful writer. I write because it is a passion.

My running is my canvas. The words I write are my colors.

I hope you enjoy the pictures I draw.