Running for Your Life

How Running in the Morning Beats Running for President

I love to run, but then again I hate to run. I love the feeling of adrenaline flowing though my body and the warm joy of surging the last half mile on a good, early-morning, early-springtime or late-fall run. But I hate my alarm clock (even if I was the one who set it the night before), and pulling on worn, mismatched socks, then stepping into a brisk morning breeze. I’ll force the door closed behind me, then yawn while I stretch a little on the driveway and think of my cozy bed. It is only when I shuffle those first awkward steps down the street and fully commit to my insane cause that I realize my gratitude for rolling out of bed.

Today my morning workout is the presidential election and Donald Trump is my alarm clock. Even when my insides scream out to hit snooze, snuggle back to my pillow and my wife, and ignore the man who won’t stop talking, something deeper down urges me towards the cacophony.

The jarring juxtapositions that keep waking me up:

  1. Donald Trump is a misogynistic, racist, flawed businessman, Washington-outsider-turned-politician who eschews political correctness.
  2. Donald Trump has, ironically, run his campaign as a populist outsider in a party that has grown weary of the current populist outsider.
  3. Donald Trump has been both a Democrat and a Republican throughout his lifetime, although I am uncertain whether he has donned those labels out of conviction or convenience.
  4. Donald Trump currently identifies himself as a Republican.
  5. Donald Trump will become the Republican nominee at what is supposed to be an uncontested convention next week. I am certain there will be protests and I am certain there will be some kind of attempt to keep him from the nomination. But any attempt to stop him (now or as we move closer to November) from securing the nomination will only further fracture the Republican party.
  6. Hillary Clinton is a lying, manipulative, corrupt, felon, who believes she is the heir to the presidential throne, and who will say or do anything to get elected.
  7. Hillary Clinton has run her campaign while trying to avoid her record ofscandal after scandal, and lie after lie after lie after lie in a country where average citizens are jailed for perjury or other minor crimes.
  8. Hillary Clinton will more than likely become the Democratic nominee in a convention that may be contested and might even turn violent.
  9. I am no longer sure what it means to be a Republican or Democrat or if we even have respect for the political process and the positions of power we vote for.
  10. I am beginning to wonder if labels are valid anymore to the extent they accurately identify the people and objects before us, or if such labels do more harm than good as they divide us into little groups.
  11. If I must use a label to identify myself, (or maybe just so the readership can divide me into a little group)I am a conservative-minded, libertarian-minded individual who has consistently voted Republican because such candidates (at least I believed so in the past) most closely resemble my political and social philosophy. I have also in the past believed that the two-party system was the best system because to believe otherwise would be throwing away my vote.
  12. I have come to believe more and more that my vote is a sacred responsibility — even if it doesn’t matter in the election per se because I don’t live in a swing state. (That is of course unless Texas becomes a swing state, which is entirely possible given the unpredictable nature of the election thus far). I don’t know how or if I am going to vote this November (at least in the presidential election, though I will most assuredly vote on the other parts of the ballot), but if I do, I am going to vote my conscience and support whoever is closest to my political and social philosophy.
  13. I have never voted for someone in a presidential election. My candidate has never survived the primary and I have always settled for whoever the Republicans nominated. I have always voted against the Democrats or against the greater of two evils.
  14. For the 2016 presidential election, I cannot decide who to vote against because I cannot determine who is the greater of the two evils.
  15. There are Republicans trying to persuade people like me to fall in line and support the Republican nominee because he is “better than Hillary” and we cannot lose after what we have been through the past 8 years.
  16. There are Republicans who are coming to believe that Trump is not a good fit for the Republican nomination and are trying to figure out a way to unbind the delegates at the national convention so that someone better than Trump can become the Republican nominee.
  17. It is ironic that some of the very Republicans who put rules into place 4 years ago to prevent Ron Paul from gaining any traction at the Republican convention are the same people who are trying to change the rules that have allowed Donald Trump to become the soon-to-be nominee. The whole thing has turned into a circus.
  18. I only like circuses with elephants and trapeze artists and clowns on unicycles. I have yet to see elephants, trapeze artists , or unicycles, but I have noticed a good many clowns lately.
  19. After eight years of an Obama presidency, Republicans are so hungry for a win, they are using the fear of a Hillary presidency to unite around Donald Trump. The Democrats are so hungry to remain in power (and possibly gain more legislative power), they are using the fear of a Donald Trump presidency to unite around Hillary Clinton.
  20. I am not motivated by fear.

What gets me out of bed in the morning when my alarm clock first goes off, and what keeps me awake and gets me out the door motivated to train is my mile time. As I near mid-life I want more and more to get back to the stamina I had nearly 20 years ago. I have come close two or three times, but then life gets in my way and I have to start (nearly) all over again. I am not afraid of getting old and never reaching my goal. I recognize that there is a fairly good chance that I will never get back to a sub-five mile pace, but that doesn’t keep me from dreaming and then going to work to make that dream possible.

I have a trail mapped out on the trails near my house that I try to run on a regular basis. Regular for me is not really regular at all, and I’ve been in better shape over the years than I am now. But at my core I am a runner and I love to run wooded trails. My regular trail run is 2.3 miles. It is a perfect distance for a quick morning jaunt: long enough for pretty good cardio workout, but short enough that it fits nicely into a morning routine; challenging enough (at my present stamina) to make it effective, and reliable enough to make it seem easy.

There has been nothing reliable about the 2016 presidential elections. Consider the following observations about the Republicans:

  1. The media has already given Donald Trump more than $2 Billion in free air time because he has been a money maker for them. I don’t know if they intended to help him to the GOP nomination, but he certainly helped to pay the bills. In order to keep those ratings and advertising dollars rolling in, the media needs to keep Donald Trump as the center of attention. The question is will they continue to build him up in lieu of their darling Hillary or will they begin to dismantle the monster they have created? Based on early spring happenings on HBO’s John Oliver and in theWashington Post along with more recent happenings at NBC and HBO’s Real Sports, I believe the latter is more likely. If the media can tear down Trump, people will line up for that train wreck just as they did for his ascendancy (which one could argue was another sort of train wreck) and the media will laugh all the way to the bank.
  2. The man who just bulldozed his way to the GOP nomination by breaking nearly every rule in the political handbook might be ill equipped to run a national campaign ground game. And even if Trump’s poll numbers continue to increase, Trump might still have too much ground to make up in the Electoral College race. Besides flipping blue states to red and being competitive in purple states, Trump also needs to hold traditionally Republican states if he is going to have a chance for the presidency. There have been grumblings that Trump may lose Republican stronghold Utah (along with other traditional red states like Texas and South Carolina) and that this election might resemble Reagan’s 1984 shellacking of Walter Mondale only with the Democrats doing the shellacking.
  3. Donald Trump is such an outsider and so politically incorrect, that what might normally cause the downfall of a typical politician doesn’t even faze the Donald. In fact, such tactics may even backfire on those plotting subterfuge and bolster Trump’s efforts. Just as it makes sense that the media will dismantle Trump, it also makes sense that Trump will dismantle the media and turn them on their heads in a way they have never seen. This strategy might even work to thwart the Trump protesters at the GOP Convention next week. And even as Trump loses conservative and libertarian leaning Republicans, he picks up more and more of the establishment Republicans and may even have the support of some Democrat crossovers.

The Democratic side has been just as unreliable as that of the Republicans. Consider the following observations:

  1. On the Democratic side avowed socialist Bernie Sanders is still, even though the primaries have come to an end, narrowly losing to scandal-riddled Hillary Clinton. In reality, neither Democratic candidate reached the required amount of delegates necessary to be nominated, but Clinton can squeak across the finish line thanks to the super delegates. But both Democrats fare better (Clinton & Sanders) in the general election national polls than Trump — though Trump in recent polling has narrowed the gap in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. However, that trend has more recently begun to go in the opposite direction and the gap is again widening. I am willing to bet that the trend will reverse itself a few more times before November as people flip flop on their determination to tow the party line.
  2. The Democrat party might be fracturing into an irreconcilable mess. Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination, but only counting the super delegates. Without them she is nearly 200 delegates away from finally defeating Bernie Sanders, who has dogged her campaign all year. As for himself, Sanders is more than 400 delegates behind Clinton and nearly 600 from the nomination. And yet,Sanders continues to fight on. The race is really closer than one might imagine. While Hillary has edged out Bernie to this point (51% to 42%), it is also true that they are 5–5 in the final 10 state elections. The real edge, and where the race will finally be determined, is in super delegates where Clinton is beating Sanders handily (92% to 8%). It is not inconceivable that the Democrats will face a contested convention as super delegates weigh in on the national polling and the average Sanders supporter protests against the Democrat establishment. And even if Hillary squeaks across the finish line, and is selected as the nominee at the National Convention, some Sanders supporters might feel so disenfranchised that they will decide not to support Hillary in the general election.
  3. Hillary Clinton is being investigated by the FBI for her roll in using a non- secure server to send and receive top secret email, a crime that has resulted in criminal indictment and sentencing for lesser violators and violations. Even though there have been arguments that the FBI will not push for an indictment, and even though FBI Director James Comey condemned Clinton’s actions and still decided not to indict, there is still a chance that Hillary is indicted during her presidential run by the Justice Department. I don’t think that Hillary’s antics will negatively impact Democrat voters who have grown indifferent to political scandal, but I do believe her failings are pushing independents and on-the-fence Republicans away. Whether or not she is indicted, and whether or not President Obama swoops in and pardons his former Secretary of State, and whether or not she is ever punished for this crime or others, the damage may already be done. The transition from a republic where laws are upheld and the government honors the checks and balances in place to one where moral and political corruption hold sway and the people are oppressed by tyrants may be complete.

The entrance to the trails I run are about a quarter mile from my house. The transition from street to dirt is a relief from the concrete monotony. The trail is really the grassy rim of a gully that winds behind my neighborhood. Two dirt trails (one more established and one fainter) are etched into the grassy rim, the remnants of service work vehicles, ATVs, dog walkers, bikers and runners. Further ahead, at the edge of a small forest, these trails narrow to a single trail that dips and winds between the oak trees and pines down to a natural lake beyond the hill. Most trail users avoid the narrow path and the forest all together in favor of the newer, wider, concrete path that turns south and follows the gully and grassy rim. As such, I usually run the forest alone, no matter how busy the other trails are.

I know I am not alone in my misgivings about this election. For all the people who are excited (or scared) about the prospects of this election, and are gearing up to vote accordingly, there are probably just as many people who are uncertain about what they are going to do between now and November, and even more uncertain about what they are going to do on election day.

There is a point in every run, long or short, that runners refer to as “ the wall.” The reality of this wall can range from a tiny bump in the road all the way to an unscalable behemoth. The wall can be literal, physical, psychological, etc. It can be rough terrain, cramps, fatigue, pain or even doubt. Some days are easier than others, and some days hitting the wall means the wall wins and you have to walk the rest of the way home. Experienced runners expect to hit the wall at some point in their run and have learned how to push through it. But even inexperienced runners know that failing to push through the wall has its own benefits. The wall may be the hardest part of the run, but it is also the most rewarding. There is growth is winning and there is growth in losing. The wall is what shapes and builds character; it is the part that matters most.

Overcoming the walls in my path is the real reason I run, to challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually, to dig deep, to rise to the occasion and come out on top. In this way, the wall is my real competitor whether I am training with a fellow runner or not. I don’t run against other people and I don’t run to win.

We’re near the wall of this election cycle. I don’t know if it will happen before November or after, but we are getting closer. Two things are certain:

  1. The going will get tougher and tougher as we go along. Chaos will ensue; there will be calls for violence and protests to act out that violence; and there will be instability that might threaten our very existence as a nation. Some of us will lose our way, our faith, or even our very lives.
  2. Whoever wins the race in November will not be able to stop the instability (more on this in the next article). The best the next president will be able to do is manage the aftermath and help steer us towards the future. The problem is that neither candidate has the wherewithal to steer us forward and will more than likely just make things worse.

And so we must not give up as we near the impending storm. Not on each other, not on this republic, and not on the right of each and every one of us to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Cresting and overcoming the wall will take every ounce of courage and strength we can muster, and we might even need to borrow some along the way from our fellow brothers and sisters. We must reach out in love and faith to those we most bitterly disagree with and find common ground. Our leaders will not and cannot do it for us. We the people must unite our voices once again to save this great republic.

I invite you to have a conversation with me about the future of our country. Not because I am anyone special to start conversations, but because reaching out to anyone and holding on to someone is good for everyone. If you don’t know me or trust me enough to have a conversation with, then I invite you to have a conversation with someone close to you, preferably someone with whom you disagree — those are the effective conversations. The time is passed for us to rely on the government to solve our problems for us. We must take a stand to defeat intolerance, despotism, greed and corruption, then use the framework of the Constitution to ensure a prosperous future for all.

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