On Finding Motivation

Another week down. Finding the time is just as hard as running so I’ve started waking up at six in the morning on the weekdays. I wake my 16-year-old daughter up to go with me and to her credit she gets up and goes. We run around at a track ten blocks from my house. The track is a part of a city park after the high school it belonged to was torn down. It was easier to demolish it and move the kids, lay off or reassign the teachers, than removing the asbestos and lead paint. Now my neighborhood has a track they can use at any time.

What a beautiful idea, even if it was by accident. Every community should have a track in it. When I go early in the morning there is always a group of old black men telling jokes while walking around it. In the afternoon parents come with their children and the children ride their little bikes in a safe environment. In the evening, it’s the women power walkers with their ballcaps and ponytails doing laps.

Around the track is a dog park, a baseball diamond, and an open field, which are always being used. I’ve made sure to say hi to everyone I meet so I can get to know the regulars and maybe become a regular to the newbies. I imagine now that someone will miss me if I don’t show up and I don’t want to let anyone down.

When I see my daughter run it reminds me that these series of movements, this perpetual motion of my legs, this pumping of arms and lungs, had, at one time, been easy. I tell people this and they reply that I just need to keep at it and it will someday be easy again. I don’t know if it will. The entire right side of my body was broken in that carbomb in Iraq and then I let it sit without really using it for eight years. This challenge is too big when I think of it as a whole, but I found it’s possible if I just take every day as it comes.

I don’t run like I did while in the army. In the army you run until your blood is boiling and your lungs are sandpaper. You push it because you’re a steely-eyed killer, that and if you don’t push it someone bigger in the food chain is going to smoke the shit out of you. When I first started this out, at the beginning of this year, I ran like the ghost of the nastiest drill sergeant was chasing me and screaming profanities, but that only made me dread the next time out and I stopped running for a few months.

When I started again I promised myself that I would take it easy when my body told me to stop. This worked for the first couple weeks but I wan’t making any progress in time or distance. I’ve started pushing myself after the first month. Now I run without stopping for the first mile and go as far into the second mile as I can before I do. The ghost drill sergeant has returned but he is a bit more tolerant. I will decide to pick it up and jog to the end of the straight away and the drill sergeant will tell me to take it to the next line or triangle painted on the track and I do. Lately he’s been telling me to take it two or three lines more and I do.

When I decided to start running again I thought that I would have all sorts of additional energy through out the day. Active people just have a higher metabolism and have more energy, but it hasn’t turned out that way. Instead my boss and coworkers ask me why I’m limping around all the time. I walk like I’ve fallen down the side of a hill. The ghost drill sergeant doesn’t care. He still tells me to take it three or four more lines before stopping.

The aches, pains, and swells are a natural part even though they hurt. The pain is a reason to skip a day, then maybe if I skip two days then my muscles will listen to me better, then before I know it I haven’t run in five days or a week. I decided not to do that this time. Even if I get to the track and only jog a mile and do some push ups I told myself I still have to make it to that track every other day. That is why I have my daughter run with me, that’s why I say hi to all the old black men, the kids and their parents, and the powerwalkers. I do it all for motivation which is why I write these pages as well. Today I ran 5 kilometers and although I wouldn’t win any medals with the time it took me it is an amazing accomplishment, in my mind. I’m going to keep on going.


By Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and the winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award from the American Legion in 2015 and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in the the Ted Talk Book The Misfit’s Manifesto (Simon and Schuster), Forest Avenue Press anthology City of Weird, Sixty Minutes, Story Corps, Flaunt Magazine, The Big Smoke, Human the movie, and much more.

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