RUNNING

Running

By

Leonard Zwelling

            I’m
a runner. No, I can’t run any longer. Back, hips, neck, the usual. But once not
so long ago, I ran and once a runner, always a runner.

            It
started in 1970 during my second year medical school surgical rotation at the
Durham, NC VA Hospital. I hated surgery. I was an arrogant internal medicine
wonk who thought surgeons were Neanderthal-like creatures noted mostly for
stopping closing elevator doors with their heads instead of their hands or feet
as I was taught by my mentor David Hohn, himself a surgeon. How would I know at
the invincible age of 22 that several different surgeons would eventually save
my life? I owe surgeons a great deal especially Dr. Hohn, the only person at
Anderson who gave me an opportunity in administration after I completed
business school.

            All
I knew in 1970 was that I was an angry young medical student stuck at the end
of the operating table only ascending to the side to hold a retractor. I was
also bored. So when Richard Marion, my classmate said, “let’s go for a run”, I
went.

            He
took me to the greatest tract I have ever run in the world, the cross country
course cut into Duke Forest that surrounds the Duke golf course. I have since
run everywhere from the Old City of Jerusalem to the hills overlooking
Berkeley, California. The Duke cross country course beats them all. Today, it
is a groomed wooded nature trail of packed dirt, a 3-mile loop with emergency
phones, safety lights, and water fountains for canine running mates. Then it
was a stump-filled, often muddy (it rains a lot in Durham) path a third the
width of the current one. But the basic trail remains, ending, regardless of
the direction in which it is run, with a steep uphill grade back to the parking
lot.

            That
day, I could not finish the run. I couldn’t make it up the quarter-mile final
hill. The next day Rich and I went again. Again, I could not finish. On the
third day, I returned by myself. I was able to finish and in the process became
a running addict. I was never the same again for the virus that is cross
country running, what the late, great Steve Prefontaine called one of the
pleasures of his life, had infected me permanently. Running was in my blood as
it is to this day. Nothing that I have ever done; NOTHING; has replaced running
as giving meaning and shape to my life. I miss it terribly.

            I
ran for another 30 years before it all caught up with me and the pain of trying
exceeded any endorphin rush I could muster. After three back operations, I am
done running. Sort of.

            In
the late 1970’s there was a television mini-series about a well-to-do German
Jewish family caught up in the Holocaust. The entire family perished except the
youngest son who became part of the underground resistance eventually running
from the Nazis and escaping. My mother turned to me after we had watched it
together and said,

            “Leonard,
pay attention, the one who survived was the one who ran”.

            Perhaps
the final word on running comes from that great philosopher Kenny Rogers in
“The Gambler”:

           

            You
gotta know when to hold ‘em

            Know
when to fold ‘em

            Know
when to walk away

            Know
when to run. 

            The
point of all of this is that at some point standing up to evil is not the best
course of action and often becomes incompatible with survival. Sometimes, you
just need to get out. You have to know when to run. More on this later.

I was asked to provide a RUNNING count of the page views: To date 88732 since March 2013, I believe

1 thought on “RUNNING”

  1. I think the reason we keep trying to stand up to evil is our belief that good always triumphs in the end. However, we should temper that ideal with choosing our battles wisely.

    Speaking of battles, there's a book called "The Heart Aroused: Poetry & the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America" by David White. I think it's a must read for any manager or anyone trying to survive in a corporation. His use of the story of Beowulf in this book is brilliant.

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