Like other long-time runners, both of us have suffered through our share of injuries. And like other runners, we become anguished and upset when we’re unable to run.
But occasionally we get reminders that our problems aren’t really as traumatic as they seem. Sometimes these reminders come from unexpected sources.
We were exchanging e-mails last week and catching up on the events of the weekend. Mike had traveled all the way to Redding for a race that he ultimately had to skip because of injury. He planned on taking several days off to recover, then resume his regular training routine.
Our e-mail exchange went like this:
Donald: How are you feeling? Still injured?
Mike: Still injured. Very very depressed. Angry.
Mike’s emotions and response were very typical of an injured runner. Particularly a runner that knows his injury was his own fault by over-training. But after Donald read the reply, a funny thing happened: he immediately thought of the Cat in the Hat.
The previous weekend, the Buraglio family attended the MPC presentation of “Seussical, the Musical”, based on the collective works of Dr Seuss. The plot is an amalgamation of several stories, starring Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz (who, by the way, is much cuter on stage than in the book), and the residents of Whoville.
The tales are intertwined and told concurrently, and reach a dramatic crescendo just before the close of Act 1, when almost every terrible thing imaginable starts happening to Horton.
He’s lost the clover he was protecting (where all of the Whos live) after it was stolen by a group of vigilante monkeys and flown 1000 miles away by a black-bottomed eagle. He’s stuck on a nest in a tree, waiting on the return of the deadbeat Mayzie bird who tricked him into hatching her egg. He’s about to be captured by hunters and sold to the circus. Worst of all, he is oblivious to the affections of Gertrude, who undergoes a dramatic tail augmentation procedure just to gain his attention.
Then just before the close of Act 1, as all of those awful things are happening, the Cat in the Hat starts singing a tune called “Think of How Lucky You Are!”:
When the news is all bad,
When you're sour and blue,
When you start to get mad
You should do what I do-
How lucky you are...
When your life's going wrong
When the fates are unkind
When you're limping along
And get kicked from behind
Tell yourself how lucky you are...
Why decry a cloudy sky
An empty purse
A crazy universe?
My philosophy is simply
Things could be worse!
So be happy you're here.
Think of life as a thrill
And if worse comes to worse
(As we all know it will)
Thank your lucky star
You've gotten this far...
How lucky you are!
How lucky, how lucky you are!
So Donald cut and pasted the lyrics into an e-mail, and sent it off to Mike, with the following comment: This song probably doesn’t help but your depression reminded me of it. Hope you’re feeling better soon.
When runners get injured, we feel like the sky is falling. We get depressed and feel inadequate and our problems take on irrational dimensions. Yet those are precisely the times we should remember just how lucky we are.
We need to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have relatively good health and strong bodies. We should be thankful for the friends and families that support us, and grateful for every day we get to spend in this beautiful area we live. The rest, as they say, is just small stuff.
Of course, in the second act of Seussical, everything works out just fine (it is Dr Seuss, after all): the Whos are saved, Horton and Gertrude find happiness, and children are encouraged to think whatever kinds of wonderful things they can imagine. In real life, it’s not that simple.
Some things will continue to be difficult, and tough times of one sort or another certainly lie ahead. But occasionally we need a reminder of how much we have in relation to how much we lack. And if that lesson has to be delivered by a 6-foot cat with a striped top hat for us to understand, so be it.
On the athletic front, most running injuries recover more slowly than we would like. Unfortunately, a cute song is insufficient to fix an injury; we also need things like self-restraint, perseverance, and a healthy dose of patience.
But the next time your running life starts going wrong, or if you have to start limping along, try this tactic: think of the Cat in the Hat, think of the other things in your life that make you feel happy or secure, and remind yourself how lucky you are!