"Hang in There" (Joe Scutella, Ross Falzone)
Performed by Joe Scutella from the release Hang in There
With one brilliantly simple line, good friends Joe Scutella and Ross Falzone encapsulate a positive philosophy of life: "it's more the goin' than the get there." I've learned that running a race--in my case, a marathon--explicates this affirmation in a concrete way. "Hang in There" is a stunningly beautiful tune. Heartbreaking without artifice, hopeful without being saccharine, the song still has room for whatever pertinent allegory the listener wishes to apply. For me right now, it's about living the journey, running the race. And it's my feet that are tired, not the metaphor.
In explaining my marathon obsession to friends and family, I often say that it's just part of an ongoing middle age crisis. Some men of my vintage turn to little red sports cars. My legs are way too long for that option. So I run. My flippant commentary is a casual way to diffuse the underlying concern some people may have about my health or sanity. It may also be a way for me to avoid digging down deep and discovering the real reasons I put my body through such torture. I mean, why would anyone want to do something like that?
As I prepare for my 4th marathon, I'm trying to hone in on a real answer to that question, especially in light of an article a friend recently sent me. It seriously questions the health benefits of extreme exercise. It cites medical studies that find marathoners live shorter lives, that the effort needed to complete 26.2 miles actually causes minor heart damage. (I've placed a link to that article at the end of this post.) As a marathoner himself, the author of the article is struggling with this new information. Like me, he runs because the thrill of race day is something that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. But also like me, he doesn't want to pay for that thrill with precious years of his life. I'm left to weigh the pros and cons. After all, if something is potentially dangerous, you have to decide if it's worth doing, right?
Maybe we run because so much else in life is incomplete. We plant seeds, but we rarely see them to full fruition. In a marathon, there is a starting line and a finish line. Every mile that lies between is about your struggle with yourself, with the elements, with your physical limitations, and with your belief that you can go the distance. When you see the finish line approaching in a marathon, you are immortal for a minute or so. The experience is a pure form of elation, the acme of the runner's high. And it doesn't matter where you finish in the pack; they still give you a medal. That official race bling signifies that you've done it. You finished what you started. You completed something. As a bonus, you join a somewhat elite group in the world of sport. And that means a lot for someone who was never an athlete but desperately wanted to be one.
Maybe it's about proving something to yourself. Despite the threat of failure that hangs over the enterprise like an invisible hammer, you engage fully in the physical and mental battle required of you. In the process, maybe you learn something about your character. Somewhere around mile 19 as your body begins to descend into something approximating shock, you hear a steely voice inside that you didn't know you had. It says, "you gotta hang in there."
Maybe it is the camaraderie, the supportive nature of the marathon that I would miss. On race day, we are all striving toward the same goal; we are all in this thing together. I was encouraged by the thousands of people that lined the route in Houston, that held the humorous signs in Richmond, that high-fived us from their front yards in Jacksonville, each smile cutting a tiny notch out of the pain. I honestly don't know where you can find a more supportive atmosphere outside of an AA meeting.
( Photo from Melissa, Loose Change and Lipstick Stains )
In a physical sense, I would miss the buzz I get off a marathon. It's a feeling that lasts long after the race is through. It's not a foggy alcohol kind of buzz. It's a humming in the body, a well tuned vibration in the core. After a marathon, I'm on a deck chair in the Mediterranean Sea, the steady thrum of the boat's engine pulsating my sun drenched body. Life is good.
On the other hand, training for a marathon can be brutal. It takes a lot of time and effort to get your body ready. Other activities suffer. Family members grow weary of melting ice bags left in the sink and constant updates on various sore or injured body parts. Hours upon hours are spent sweating in the sun and slogging through cold rain. Trudgery is not a word, but it should be.
I've got a few more training runs to go before race day. I'll think about all of this as Vietnamese rubber meets the Tennessee road. I'll talk with my old buddy and marathon partner and see what he thinks. In two weeks, we'll bat it around as we enjoy a post race Hurricane in New Orleans. Whether or not this is the last rodeo, we'll soak up the experience in one of America's greatest cities. As always, we will feel the weight of the immense privilege of participation, of simply being able to run at all. Ever mindful of the 'get there', ever grateful for the goin'.
Joe Scutella is one of my favorite writers. He has hundreds of songs and I'd like to record every one of them! Go to his Reverb Nation page and stream his music. You'll see what I'm talking about:
You can get a copy of "Hang in There" as well as 10 other great tracks on his release Hang in There:
Take a minute to like his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joe-Scutella/26746883425
Ross Falzone is a wonderful writer as well as a prince of a human being. He has three really great albums on his own label. His version of "Hang in There" can be found on the 2007 release Life Here on Earth. The albums are available on his website:
He also has some very cool videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/falz117
To read the article mention above: