“A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain.” ~ Pete Zamperini
Wow, I’ve been out of the loop for a while now, doing my training, going to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, my household duties, but most of all, I have been totally entranced with a book that was suggested by a Facebook friend.
The biography, titled “Unbreakable” and written by Laura Hillenbrand, is probably one of the best books I have ever read. It tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, from toddlerhood to adult, through running the streets as a teenage tyrant hell-bent on causing as much mischief as a person can, through his transition from said tyrant to one of the fastest mile runners of all time, through his truly death defying years as a POW in WWII and his troubles after the war, and then as he learns the power of forgiveness.
I can’t say this book changed my life, but it does change the way I look at things. First, it was difficult to read the details of the absolutely terrifying torture so many of our WWII veterans suffered. I have always appreciated our veterans, but to know a little more of the atrocities that occur in war….. well, my levels of appreciation increased quite significantly. To all you veterans and current military, friends and family, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart…. thank you.
I don’t want to simplify this book. I don’t want to take this beautiful, horrible story and pick parts of it out and discuss to take away from the whole as to minimize this man’s life story. That is not what I’m trying to do. I think we could all learn something from Louie Zamperini’s story. Many of us runners can learn something from it too.
Something that really grabbed my attention was a statement from Louie’s brother, Pete, that Louie thought about just before he ran in the 1936 Olympic games. “A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain.” That statement, coupled with the experiences that Louie endured during the war, had the most effect on me. To put it into my own personal perspective, I can’t help but view this as a runner. I think about how I feel when I run races, the fact that I still don’t think I’ve ever once given a race all I had in me. And it makes me want to do just that. I want to be empty when I finish, to be totally depleted, to be stick-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done done. I want to finish knowing that there’s absolutely nothing, without a doubt, NOTHING I could have done to finish better.
The book also makes the biggest case for “mind over matter” when it comes to facing difficulties. Louie lived in the most horrendous conditions. Beatings, starvation, torture, back-breaking work, dogged sickness, agony, death everywhere. Knowing that he lived, that he CHOSE to keep going, to persevere in the worst of the worst of experiences, shows us all that the body can withstand much more than it normally could if the mind allows it to. Don’t we marathoners constantly use our mental strength to get through our marathons? Don’t we say that you can only train your body so much, but your mind will carry you to the finish line?
This book gives me a fresh perspective as I head into full Boston Marathon training mode in just a few weeks. I say, bring it on. I know I have a lot more effort in me. I know I have a lot more strength, both physical and mental. I’m so proud to be a part of the 118th Boston Marathon, my first Boston experience, and what I’m hoping will not be my last. If I could, I would thank Louie Zamperini for his service to our wonderful country first. Then I would thank him for teaching me that I can go a little farther, a little harder, and a little faster than what I ever thought I could. (In fact, he is much alive at 96 years old so I just may have to carefully craft an email to Louis himself!) So for now, I’m heading to the store (with me eating like an endless pit and feeding two growing boys and a husband, I’m always going to the store because we’re always out of food) and when I see one of those old guys proudly wearing their hats showing they are veterans, I’m going to go up to them and personally say thank you.
Thanks to all veterans and current military men and women for all they do.