Thursday, April 19, 2012

Running Through Pain

Pain is temporary.

For the past four months, I have pounded this mantra through my mind, legs, and feet.  I am running my first marathon this weekend and the concept of pain being temporary runs, pardon the pun, deeper than just the physical and emotional investment it's taken to get ready for the race.  

I wanted to feel pain.  I wanted to feel the pain of waking up before the sun on winter mornings and bundling up to get in a few miles. I wanted to feel the pain of feeling my legs gradually give out midway through my longest training run.  I embraced this pain not because I am some kind of masochist, but because I wanted to prove to myself that there is no pain too crippling to overcome.  And, I wanted to be able to use the physical challenges of running a marathon to pass this message along to my little brother, Jayden.

Jayden and me
Jayden is the reason I am running the marathon.  He and I aren't brothers by blood, but I don't know if that would make us any closer.  He and I were matched as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in August 2010.  A year-and-a-half later, he has become one of my greatest motivators.

To say Jayden's life has been difficult would be an understatement.  I won't detail his hardships, but his almost 15 years on this earth have been anything but easy.  He has experienced plenty of pain, pain no run of 26.2 miles can duplicate.

But, all pain is temporary and even though it doesn't last forever, the lessons learned from it can.

Throughout my training I reflected on some of my life's most painful moments.  It's amazing how running can jog your memory.  What I found most unbelievable is that I often thought about the toughest times during the most challenging runs.  When the pain hit its apex, my mind went to a memory that hurt the most.

I thought of my grandfather who passed away last year.  I thought about my biological father leaving my mom three weeks after I was born. I thought about Rasheed Wallace not defending Robert Horry on the inbounds pass in 2005, essentially costing the Pistons back-to-back NBA titles.  I thought about buying an engagement ring weeks before finding out my girlfriend at the time was cheating on me.  And, most of all, I thought about my cousin, Zack.

Sam and Zack
Like Jayden and I, Zack and I were as close as brothers could be.  We did everything as a pair as kids.  We went to camps together, fought, played sports, gawked at girls, and simply talked about life.   Zack was the greatest friend and brother I could imagine.

He passed away when he was just 19 years young.  Saturday's marathon will mark, to the day, the six year anniversary of his funeral.

The pain from that day will forever haunt me and the rest of my family.  I remember the sounds and smoke created by the 21 gun salute honoring him.  I remember watching a procession of Zack's friends and family line up to say goodbye as the Beatles' "Let It Be" played.  I remember watching my aunt nearly collapse as the casket of her eldest son was brought into the church.  I remember watching my other cousin, Zack's brother, attempt to fight back tears because his big brother always told him to be tough.  That was painful.

But, the pain of that day inspired others to be better.  Zack died of a drug overdose while on leave from the Marines.  Zack isn't a martyr, but his story has been used to save lives of others.  Whether it be through the discussion forums held by my uncle, Zack's dad, to encourage other teens to choose a different path or the closer bonds formed within the family after his passing, Zack's legacy remains.  He always wanted to make those around him happy while on earth, but could never exactly figure out how.  Through his death, Zack has opened eyes and hearts and turned pain into positives.

Memories of Zack and the others still sting. But, and I noticed this more than ever while training, I always came out of these painful situations stronger.  During those moments, the pain was unbearable, but learning to grow from those setbacks and not let them deter my progress toward life's finish line makes me appreciate each experience. 

Pain is temporary.

My greatest fear is Jayden not being able to find positives out of his pains.  He is exceptionally talented and unbelievably intelligent.  And, I don't just say this as a proud older brother.  Anyone who meets him feeds off his personality.   This is a personality that needs to shine.  It is one of which hardships should not be able to hold down.

I decided to run the marathon as a way to raise money for a college savings account I started for Jayden.  In three years when he is walking across the podium to accept his high school diploma, officially making him a college freshman, I don't want there to be any financial pains waiting for him.  To even get to that point he will have already had to overcome plenty of hurdles.

I will put my body through probably its most painful experience, Saturday.  In fact, I type this while downing several gallons of bottled water in preparation.  But, once I cross the finish line, I know the pain will be worth it.  Because the experience has made me better and will make Jayden's path to college a little easier and hopefully serve as a vivid example for him that no matter what the obstacle, he can overcome and succeed.

Pain is temporary.  At the end of pain is success.  Success is divine.


  1. sam you are amazing. i am proud to know you. you and jayden are lucky to have found each other. congrats on this great accomplishment.

  2. Lindsey/Fellow Big SisApril 25, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    Wow! What an amazing big brother! As a fellow big sis, I admire you and you have just given me even more motivation to do all I can to teach my little these same very important life lessons. Keep up your great work in making such a difference and improvement in this young man's life! We need more people in this world like yoU!

  3. Hello! I stumbled across your twitter when a friend retweeted you and then I noticed you had a blog URL on your profile. As a once-in-a-blue-moon blogger myself, I began reading this post. I was pulled in, to say the least. You are a very talented writer and I am left more inspired than I have been in a while. I applied to be a big sis just the other day and have yet to fill out the final paperwork before being assigned to my little-- let's just say I won't be putting that off for any longer! I hope I can bring as much joy to my future little's life as you have to yours. Take care :)