I did something last week I had not done in almost 25 years. I ran the Mall Loop in Washington D.C. It runs from the United States Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial and back. The last time was November 3, 1984 the evening before the Marine Corps Marathon. My first one. The first of 8 I would run.
On November 2, 1984 I was 23 years old. There was not much to reflect on in my life as I glided easily along the mall towards the Lincoln Memorial. I had not lived enough to reflect on much of anything. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Criminal Justice. I had just started my 2nd year at Pitt Law. I had no idea why I was there. I really wanted to be a cop. I had, for the most part, decided I was simply not excited about entering the real world. I needed a place to hide out for a few years. I was neither scared, nor excited about the prospect of finishing law school or what lay after it. You have to care about something to generate those types of feelings. This was a run of ambivalence.
There was really not much more for me to do than be ambivalent at 23. I did not have many friends. I had never had a girlfriend or been on a date for that matter. My favorite activities were anything I could do alone. I was a stereotypical long distance runner who had found the antidote to my shy lonely and indifferent nature with countless miles of one foot in front of the other. It was one activity that did not require interaction with anyone or anything but my body and the pavement. I got to know both very well. I often ran in excess of 100 miles a week.
I ran to the Lincoln Memorial. I climbed the stairs. I reflected on my ambivalence and the 2 more years of law school ahead of me. I turned around and ran back to the United States Capitol. Once again I climbed the stairs. Once again I contemplated. I remember a gutting feeling of loneliness that sticks with me to this day when I think back. I was alone in the dark at the nation’s capital to do the only thing I did well. The only thing I was not indifferent about. Just one foot in front of the other on an endless lonely run through life. I finished my pre-race run without breaking a sweat. I finished the 1984 Marine Corps Marathon in 3:28.
April 3, 2009. I creaked, limped and wheezed along the Mall. I resolved that I would follow the 1984 path in at least direction if not spirit. There was the reality that the Brian Cuban who had effortlessly taken on the 1984 Beltway to the Iwo Jima did not exist anymore. I was older, fatter and decidedly more lame in gate. There were more years of life experience behind me than in front of me.
I made it to the Lincoln Memorial. Like I did 25 years ago, I headed up the stairs to visit with Honest Abe. Each step towards him confirmed the passage of time with an ache and a limp. This time however there were plenty of memories, mistakes and missteps to reflect on. Some good, some great, some terrible, all defining. This Brian Cuban, had made an enormous artificial, often destructive investment in life to be just the opposite of the person who climbed the stairs in 1984.
On the upside I realized that it took all those experiences to bring me full circle. Still quiet, still enjoying the things that I can do by myself, but also with focus and passion for things that I love. When I reached the Capitol Building, like 1984 I reflected. I relfected on my now 2 years of sobriety and all the great people in my life. I was not indifferent about any of it. It felt pretty damm good to be 23 again.