Friday, May 27, 2011

Marathon (A Parable)

There once was a man who had dreams of running. As a boy, he would run, of course. Boys must. But as things became more complicated, he ran less and less. Running was often not allowed. Running was sometimes considered cowardly. One couldn't run and do homework. One couldn't run and write out the bills. One couldn't run while changing babies' diapers. Sometimes, as a father, he ran two or three steps, but only in order to catch his toddlers as they stumbled.

As life became still more complicated, the man ran even less, until, eventually, he ran no more. Regardless, he still dreamed of running. One day, he thought, I will complete a marathon.

Year upon year, in the back of his mind, he planned long, adventurous running excursions; but, he always found himself sitting while doing his job or while organizing his home's finances or while watching television at the end of the day because life had made him so exhausted. But this was alright -- he was doing what he needed to do; he was fulfilling his obligations. Some things, he knew, needed to take precedent over others.

After awhile, the idea of the marathon got lost in a dark forest of upright, responsible thoughts, and that idea shriveled from a dream down to an irksome feeling that the man could not pinpoint; something that caused him to toss and turn at night; some unknown mental specter that sent his mind spinning away from both joys and troubled thoughts, so that the moments in which he lived were like snuffed candles for him: their light never seen, the scent still haunting the air.

Both ignoring and considering the mystery of this feeling in equal measures, he took care of his responsibilities, making sure his children were fed and dressed and that they received a good education and, ultimately, that they were married and happy in their own careers.

Then, one day, in the silence of his house, after the children had left, he dropped the newspaper and looked over at his wife, who had, very recently, begun to appear very old. "That's it," he said. "The marathon. I remember now." She did not react. She didn't remember the man who had wanted to run. She wandered in a forest of her own.

He was not very old, yet. Surely he could still train for the marathon and live his dream. He could at least finish. It was okay to walk a little way, at his age.

So, he stood up. But what he saw chilled his blood. Looking down he noticed that his legs had atrophied; that they were dappled with the brownish spots he'd seen on old people. At some point, his legs had become twigs that could barely hold him standing; they would never carry him for twenty-six miles, at a run.

Saddened, the man sat down on the couch and let his hands fall to his lap. The day had suddenly gone cold. He looked over at his wife, whose thoughts were far away. He began to shiver.


  1. This is beautiful. It gave me chills, and encompasses everything that we all fear when we get caught up in what's "important." Before we even realize it, we forget what excites us with the excuse that our passions may not be a priority. But they should be. You are an inspiring writer. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Maddy. You're an inspiring reader.