"Dude," I said. "I’m not doing it."
It was a call I had known I was going to make for a few days. I’d needed to build up courage to actually do it, and I finally had.
"What?" Jed replied. "Why?"
"I haven’t done anything for the past three weeks," I said. "I haven’t trained at all."
It was May, 2009, a week from what was supposed to be our first half-marathon, and I was quitting on my brother. Quitting on myself.
Six months had gone by from when we started and I was down 90 pounds. As much as I hate to admit it, a bad attitude had set in. I felt entitled. I felt accomplished. I felt complacent.
I felt arrogant.
For the first time in my life, I noticed girls occasionally looking my way. People were nicer to me. Life was better, school was better, dating was better. So maybe I deserved a little attention. Maybe I deserved to not run every day or eat right every meal or … or … or.
And so that’s what I did. I quit. Just like I had many times before, in 2003 and 2005 and 2007.
For three weeks I ate McDonald’s, gambled too much, and only ran when I felt guilty enough. It was the beginning of the end. The beginning of the inevitable spiral back to where I started.
And then, my dad called.
"Dude," he said. "I’m flying in. I’ve secretly been training and I’m not missing the first half-marathon."
Up until that point, it had been Jed and me doing this deal. Doing life and figuring it out as we went. Pa lived in Vermont and I rarely talked to him. But now he had joined the team and I couldn’t let him down.
I would run the half-marathon even if it killed me.
And it damn near did.
When I passed the seven-mile mark, I was in new territory. I had never run that far. Not a good situation to be in when you’re running your first half-marathon. By mile nine, my feet were so shredded I took my shoes off. And by mile 12, I was running on sheer anger.
But I finished. And I hugged my dad and brother. I even hugged a stranger.
And the fire was reignited.
It took some soul-searching to get over myself. It took a dad who is much wiser and a brother who cares enough to tell it to me straight.
This isn’t about me. It’s not about entitlement. I don’t deserve anything. It’s about life and finding ways to make it exciting. Satisfying. Worthwhile.
There are going to be times we feel things slipping away. Maybe it’s happening for you right now. Maybe it’s not. But it’s not worth it to quit. You know that and so do I. You know what is worth it, though? Stopping yourself dead in your tracks, kicking your own ass, putting your running shoes on and pulling yourself together. That’s what’s worth it.
That, and, y’know, being faster than your older brother. That’s worth it, too.