State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking


A few digits.  A number.  Bent lines and dots.  These things can have very little meaning or they can be the cause of flowing emotion.  26.2 is recognized by almost everyone as a number, by many as the official distance of a marathon, and by a few as the sweat, pain, toil, training, and eventual triumph of having successfully run 26.2 miles, along with the euphoria of the finish line.  It can be written about, but understanding comes only to those who have done it.

Last Saturday, I ran the Utah Valley Marathon which was my first.  It was an amazing event, capping off a lot of training and many learning experiences.  It is one of these training runs, which turned into a learning experience, that will be the focus today.

A few months ago, as the weather began to warm up, I decided it was time to push ahead and try the great test for anyone training for a marathon, the first 20 mile run.  I had run 15 miles a number of times and didn’t see any real problem adding another 5.  I ran at normal pace, feeling great after 10 and 12 miles.  13.1 is the half marathon mark, and I was still going strong.  I felt a bit of fatigue at around the 15 mile mark, but was confident I could push the last 5.  Then it happened.  My legs cramped up at about mile 16 and I could barely walk.  I tried to push through the pain and start jogging again, but soon realized it was useless.  It was over.

Where had I gone wrong?  Could I really run a marathon, or was I just fooling myself?  Amid the questions, I remembered the most basic thing I had learned in Scouting about first aid.  Cramps are a sign of dehydration.  I weighed myself and realized just how much water weight I had lost.  Using mathematical calculation, I figured out how much I needed to be drinking to avoid this scenario.  Asking experienced runners for advice, I eventually came up with a plan for nutrition and hydration which made all the difference in the long run.  Who would have thought that, though I felt great early on, my habits had sealed my fate further down the road?  Who would have thought that simply by drinking the right amounts at the right intervals early on, I finished the full marathon without anywhere near the struggle I thought I may have?

In books which we consider sacred scripture, we have the teachings of societies past.  We can learn about them as they grow and thrive.  We learn of the small issues that enter in, and soon, like the runner who doesn’t drink enough, they cramp up and fall.  How is it that we have all this knowledge and seem to have such a tough time learning?

As I look at our society today, I see a society that is very set on material things.  Elections seem to be based on the economy alone.  We pridefully go into debt to buy a new boat while our neighbor is out of work and justify in our minds that the government will take care of him.  Even if we wanted to help, we have nothing to give, due to our own choices.  We hear the words of class warfare, the rich who don’t want to help, and the poor who will use government to take from the rich.  Brotherly love is replaced by suspicion.  Political divisions have pushed from disagreement to hate, and even worse, apathy.

I could dwell on the situation, but there is no sense.  I’ll jump to my controversial conclusion:  If our country (and possibly the better part of the world) were me, doing my 20 mile training run, I would say this is about mile 15.  We are starting to feel the fatigue, and I believe it is only about a mile down the road (who knows when?) that we cramp and fall.  We can re-elect Obama.  We can put our faith in Romney.  The problem is that we are not who we need to be.  We didn’t drink enough in the first 10 miles and nothing from there to now.  Our families are broken.  Our apathetic treatment of others is staggering.  Our desire for material things has destroyed our gratitude.  Our faith, once in God (and it need not be defined who’s god that may be), is now in government or not at all.

If we are to continue, I say right now, we need to stop and drink.  Don’t worry about the race.  Leave materialism behind.  Concentrate on ourselves and then our families to rebuild our faith.  Follow the advice of those societies that have been down this path before.  If we don’t, we will cramp and fall.  If we fail, then analyze what we did wrong, humble ourselves, and start on a better path, perhaps it will be as positive a step as was my training run failure!


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