The very first time I was exposed to a group of runners saying the Serenity Prayer was at the first supported course run for the Baltimore Running Festival in the summer of 2010. I had just started training with a group and I had heard about the run that would cover part of the course. It was as hot as anything that day and it was one of the few days in the past four years when I set out on a run and didn’t make the whole distance as I did not have enough water with me and decided to call it quits before heading down Key Highway toward the Under Armour offices and back again.
Later, I would learn that this group called Back on My Feet was something that I was going to be a part of. Two years and running now. Some weeks I run a lot with Back on My Feet. Other weeks, I get in only one run or even just one every other week. But each time I join the group of runners that I have become a part of over the past two years we begin with Serenity Prayer in answer to “Who woke us up this morning?”
Just yesterday when I was out on a 14 mile run (most of which was with one friend I had met through Back on My Feet and the end of which was after joining my team for the Serenity Prayer), I commented that the one thing that I miss about not being able to join my team as often as I used to is the opportunity to recite the Serenity Prayer in a group. Of course, I could think about things that I have the ability to change and not change by myself without ever saying the Serenity Prayer. And, of course, I would say the Serenity Prayer in the quiet of my own room, my own car, or being out on my own run. But there is something about reciting a prayer in a group that makes it feel “more real”. I’m not sure how else to describe it. And just as with so many things in my life recently, I have noticed that when I say it out loud and have a chance to think about what I am saying, it forces me to think about what I am saying, to process what I am saying, and to make sure that I believe what I am saying.
Being part of a group that recites the Serenity Prayer regularly has helped me—perhaps even forced me—to come to grips with a variety of things over the past two years. Sorting out—what are the things I have to just have the serenity to accept, what are the other things that I have to have the courage to change (and then go and change them), and knowing the difference is critical to my life in general.
I think that this is also critical to my living after the Boston Marathon of 2013. I can’t change that it happened. I can't change the fact that when the attackers thought about what they could change--they chose to change something in a very negative way. That is part of the free will. And if I value free will, I have to be willing to accept the fact that it can be used for both positive and negative.
I can’t change that I was there. I can’t change how much running had dominated my life for three years leading up to the Boston Marathon in 2013. I can’t get back anything that any member of my family views as missed because I was running (although I don’t think I missed much due specifically to running). I can’t change the fact that I was unharmed in the events of April 15 but many people (some of who were of a very tender age like the eight year old who died and some of whom live in the Baltimore area) were not as safe. I am not sure whether I ever would have identified what I was feeling as survivor’s guilt, but I certainly have uttered the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I,” any number of time since April 15.
I can make changes looking ahead. I can rethink just where running belongs in a very full life. I can think about getting more sleep and giving up some on running to lead a healthier life. That will help my career and it should help my family as well. It may mean I stay awake for things better than I have over the past several years. Maybe I will sleep better. Maybe I will function better in my waking hours. I can think about traveling or not traveling to run in the future. I can think about 5K’s rather than marathons. I can think about different amounts of training—maybe a little shorter, maybe a little simpler, but just as much effort each time I go out running and once a week taking just a bit longer to really enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of being out there and taking in the nature world or the world made by man at the break of dawn.
Given that I was lucky enough to come away from April 15 unscathed physically and realizing just how much the fact that I was unscathed was a matter of change (i.e., something that I could not change and could not even anticipate), I find the need to return to the Serenity Prayer and to continue to have it being a guiding force in my life even more important than before the Boston Marathon.
And I find the challenges that if offers to be even sharper and more important and more challenging than before the Boston Marathon. I had freedom in the first month (and I will continue to have a little freedom looking ahead) to make “beginner’s mistakes”. But that only lasts so long. And one reason that won’t be acceptable for making mistakes is wrong priorities. But priorities have to be put in a whole life context. And that whole life includes so much more than work and running. And the other parts of life beyond work and running are the things that will last forever and should get first dibs when deciding what I have to accept, what I have to change, and how those changes should occur.
Easy? No. But no one said that leading a full life would be easy. It is bound to be as full of challenges as it is full of sweet moments.