Chances are you've never heard of Chris Kirstein. And until a few weeks ago I hadn't either. I woke to my alarm on a chilly Sunday morning, still pretty sore from running the day before, and I had to give myself a pep talk just to get out of bed. Surely it would be ok – and perfectly understandable – if I take today off. My legs are sore. It's cold outside. Just roll over and go back to sleep.
But I didn't. I got up, made myself some oatmeal, and gathered my stuff. I quietly paced the house trying to stretch my legs and pretty soon it was time to leave.
Leaving my boys at home, sleeping snugly in their beds, I got in the car and headed for Lake Fayetteville and a chilly, Sunday morning 10K. I was still unconvinced that racing was a good idea that day and about halfway to the end of our street I reconsidered my original plan of going back to bed.
But right about the time my attitude almost got the best of me, a new song came on the radio.
U2's Beautiful Day.
And I remembered why I had agreed to run this race in the first place.
The race – Run for Every Chris – exists to raise funds and awareness for the Arkansas Crisis Center as the Center spreads suicide awareness and provides crisis intervention for the state. All of it in memory of Chris, a 15 year old boy who took his life in 1994.
I was there to run for Chris. For every Chris. I had never met Chris Kirstein, but he dragged my sorry attitude out of bed that morning and got me to the start line.
I was also there to run for Jami. You probably don't know her either, but she's part of the extended family I inherited by working at Saatchi. Jami's mom Michelle is my friend and coworker. Their family's heartbreaking story is here. Jami is a Chris. She committed suicide in 2005. The day of the race would have been her 23rd birthday.
And as I ran the trails that morning, I realized that in a way I was there to run for the people I've lost in my own life, suicide or no.
I haven't even been running an entire year, but already it's evolved. At first, it was a challenge to myself – can you run a mile? And over the past several months there have been elements of competition, fitness, personal goal-setting, and – dare I say – enjoyment. But to be honest, I've asked myself more than once why I spend so much time doing this running thing. I spent my entire life being nonathletic, why start now? I have a family and a job and I have to sleep sometime — why add something else to the plate?
6.2 miles is a long time to think and it's a long time to be a little cold and a little sore, but I ran. My legs hated nearly ever single stride of the first two miles that morning, but I was almost in tears as it dawned on me that I have a very powerful motivating force that is with me, like it or not.
Run for Every Chris.
Run for Every Jami.
Run for Every Justin.
Run for Every Sherlock.
Run for Every Tom.
There's something about getting my blood pumping and making my muscles hurt that makes me feel like I'm hanging out with my brother. Of course it's still competition and fitness and enjoyment, but ultimately, I think that's why I run — it's the most physical, tangible way I've found to remember him. When I'm pushing, he's proud of me. When I feel like shutting off the alarm and going back to sleep, Tom's commitment and dedication get me out of bed.
Not every step and not every run is fun – sometimes it hurts, sometimes it's hard, and sometimes I wonder why I bother, but I wear his name on my wrist and that makes it really, really hard to quit.