There's a race going on, but it's not an ordinary marathon. First of all, it's not a mere twenty six point two miles long. We don't know how long it is because we can't see that far; no one has been to the end of the course yet. And, really, it's more of a relay race than a marathon. The entire history of mankind has been running it, passing the baton to future generations. And now the baton has been passed to us, and we're on the course.
Even though we're all entered into the race-- every single one of us-- not all of us are running. Some people are sitting on the side of the road. As you run by, you can see them, staring at the sky with a glazed over look, completely oblivious of the honor that has been passed down to them.
Other people are on the road, but they're walking. They're zigzagging all over the road, but going in the right direction. They'll never make it to the end of the road. Neither will anyone else, but the irony is that the walkers are the only group who DOES think that they'll make it to the end. They have no idea how long the road actually is, so they figure they've got all the time in the world. Walk a bit this way, walk a bit that way, sit down with the sitters for a few minutes, start walking again.
Along the road, also, are joggers. They're mostly running in packs. Whenever one of them starts to get ahead of the group, the rest of them yell at him and he slows down and rejoins the pack. The packs of joggers are like soldiers, plodding away as a big unit. They won't make it to the end either. They know it, but they've accepted it. Just keep jogging, stick with your pack, make it as far as you can.
And then there are the runners. I'm a runner. Most of my friends are runners, but we don't run together. We're all screaming down the road as fast as we can, lungs gasping, legs aching, ankles threatening to give. But we keep running. Sometimes I'll pass a friend, and I'll smile at him and taunt him and whoop out loud, begging him to come run with me, like wild horses on a plain. Sometimes he'll run with me and even pass me. Other times he'll shrug and let me go past. My friends pass me, too. I always try to keep up with them, and maybe get ahead of them, but a lot of times they're faster than me. Sometimes we run alone, other times we clump together by chance. We never stop moving.
As we progress down the road, the scenery becomes more and more beautiful. We pass beaches with cool refreshing oceans lined with comfortable beach chairs. They're mostly empty, inviting us to sit down. There are stunning green fields punctuated with wildflowers. Picnics are laid out for us. How refreshing would it be to sit under the sun, quench our thirst, and get fat? The temptations become more and more enticing as we go farther. The determination we began with is threatened more severely with each mile. Occasionally another runner will slow down and exit the road, looking back at us, begging for understanding.
We don't stop running. We can't stop running. We know that we'll never ever get to the end of the path, and we've accepted that. We know that others are thousands of miles ahead of us, and that no amount of running will ever close that gap. Winning the race isn't even something to be considered. Instead, one day, our bodies will fail us and we'll fall onto the road, never to move again. As we fall, we will plant our batons in the ground, offering them to the next generation, hoping that whoever picks it up will understand what we've done, and will run and not stop. And if whoever picks up our baton won't run, we hope he will enjoy the scenery we've brought him to.
The running never gets easy. Those who have stopped at various points in the road give the appearance of happiness. They're wearing fresh clothes, drinking pure water, and eating delicious food. Meanwhile, our bodies and clothes are covered with sweat and blood and dirt. We are thirsty and hungry and tired. The only reason we believe comfort even exists is because we can see other people enjoying it on the side of the road.
Why do we run? Those from the sidelines, the ones who never ran to begin with, don't understand. They think we're fools, running a race that we can't possibly win. Our ancestors have already gotten us a thousand times farther than we can run by ourselves. Why kill yourself just to move, relatively speaking, a smidge farther? The walkers don't understand, either. We'll all get there eventually, they think, so why such a rush? The joggers figure that it's too dangerous to run by yourself, and that by staying in a pack they'll at least get somewhere, and don't have to worry about being abandoned.
We run because there's road ahead of us, and because we have legs. We run because someday someone will find the baton that we've left, and we owe it not to them, but to the descendants of their descendants, to move the baton forward. We run because we love to run.