Home > Dreams, Health, Learning, Music, Personal, Reflections, Youth > What is run can never be unrun

What is run can never be unrun

It’s tempting to run to music. Stepping in time to someone else’s tune is usually much easier than setting my own.

It’s easier, but it’s also less fulfilling. Tonight I ditched my music, donned my new Vibrams, and began running.


The quiet felt eerie at first, until, step by step, I decided it was an empty page of sheet music waiting to be scored.

My path took me across a decrepit corner market. Bags of chips and bottles of hairspray competed for space on the cluttered shelves. I saw them for only a second before I was running back through time, and stepping into the market around the corner from my childhood home.

I handed the clerk a dollar bill for a bottle of Dr. Pepper and waited for change. Instead of returning my change to me, the clerk said, “What your mom does, it’s not right. She should take better care of you.”

“You have no idea what my mom does. Just give me my change.” I glared at the clerk before thrusting my hand her direction, silently demanding my change.

“I’m not saying this right,” she said, looking genuinely flustered. “I was like you growing up. It was hard. I’m just trying to help–”

“Wow, yeah, I can tell. You’re helping so much, making life so much easier for my mom, my siblings and me. We don’t need your kind of ‘help.'” I turned and stalked out of the market without my change, only seldom to return again. I had to be fierce to survive, both inside and outside of my home.


Fierce enough to run barefoot, in my mom’s memory, circa 2010

Back in May 2013, I saw I’d run a couple of blocks through the past. Returned to the present, I smiled at the teen texting while skating so slow I kept passing him. I listened to Korean karaoke and wondered if my neighborhood might not be the home karaoke capital of the world.  I shook my head at the lady who kept pounding a crosswalk button, opting to do something instead of nothing, because although the end result is the same, it feels more productive.

I’d cruised dozens of steps past her before I realized she was me. I spent six months in an unhealthy situation, telling myself that I could end it if I could just find the right words to make someone else understand my pain. “I just haven’t found the right words yet,” I told myself, pounding the button. “Maybe these are the right ones?” Pound. “Or these ones?” Poundpoundpound.

It took someone else’s flippant comment for me to realize there were literally no words I could say to them to make them understand. I’d tried dozens if not hundreds of combinations, but none of them sank in, because–here’s the kicker–no one in this world can make another person understand.

I decided it was time to chart a new course. I stopped idly pounding someone else’s buttons and stepped away.

I was frustrated with myself as I ran and remembered.

‘”Six whole months, Deb. Six months. You couldn’t figure it out sooner?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle, though, picturing the lady pounding away at the crosswalk button in hopes of a green light come earlier by her actions.

Yes, I was slow on the uptake. No, I can’t change the past by beating up my past self for her actions. Somehow it’s easier to see this as I pound the pavement, step after step after glorious step.

I once plowed through the heartaches of my youth. They hurt, but they made me stronger. I pushed my way through irrepressible loneliness in South Korea, law school and Japan, in that order. I did many things right and others very, very wrong, straight up through this very evening run.

I would never have heard these tunes converge with my ears turned toward someone else’s stories in song. I would never have seen with such clarity how I have run through heartache, hardship and loss, somehow managing to gather speed instead of slowing.

Step after step after step, I run. I will never be an Olympian in the outside world, but in my inner world, as I run through past, present and future, there are no medals equal to the sheer beauty of striding through strife and into ever-increasing strength.

Summited K2! Oh, wait.

L.A. Marathon ’04: What is run can never be unrun

  1. May 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    This is beautiful. I love that you are learning to appreciate your strength, and to recognise that your mistakes have all contributed in making you the person you are today. And sad as it is that we cannot make anyone understand until they are ready (which may never happen) I at least have too much work to do on and with myself to start ‘improving’ anyone else.
    Another brilliant post. Thank you.

    • May 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I love your sentiment about having too much work to do on yourself to work on others! Amen to that. If someone routinely can’t or won’t hear, it’s a sign to consider whether that time or energy could be better spent on other, more productive things.

  2. May 20, 2013 at 4:17 am

    I have to admit, I don’t exactly know what you are talking about here.


    I, too, have grown tired trying to explain myself, and I have decided it’s time for a different course. So thank you for reminding me that it’s never too late to travel down that new road.

    • May 23, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Man, oh, man, do I related to your last couple of sentences. If I could take back all the time I’ve spent trying to explain myself and did something else with it, I could be a master cook, or a skilled rock climber, or a three-hour marathoner. Those are the places I want to put my energy.

      Sometimes I forget and get frustrated when someone’s not hearing, or something’s not going as I hoped. I remind myself to “tend to the causes,” something I’ve picked up from a short, sweet book called Just One Thing. I can’t make someone hear me, but I can state myself as clearly as possible and learn to be content with knowing I’ve tended to a given cause as much as it needs to be tended to.

      I hope we both have a long while yet to travel down the roads ahead!

  3. May 20, 2013 at 4:28 am

    I am, in my heart, running right beside you. My knees may not bend at the same angle and I may beg for mercy half way to the finish line but my soul takes flight right there beside you.

    You are inspirational, it is the truth sometimes there are not right words but doing something or saying something is better than nothing at all.

    • May 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      You are inspirational, it is the truth sometimes there are not right words but doing something or saying something is better than nothing at all.

      So, so true. Even when the outcome isn’t wonderful, there’s grace in knowing we did what we could with what we had. ♥

  4. May 20, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Nike should hire you immediately. You’ve done more for running in one post than they’ve done in years of overpriced, flashy ad campaigns.
    Well done!

  5. May 20, 2013 at 6:48 am

    I loved this. You have a way with words that just touch me to my very soul. My knees don’t let me run yet, but soon and when they do I will think of this post.Thank you.

    • May 23, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      Thank you so, so much for your kind words. I hope your journey to running–if you then choose to run–is a kind one. I will be thinking of you on my next run.

  6. May 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    This is such a(nother) powerful post! Thanks for the glimpse inside you – whether we understand it all or not, it’s great that YOU are coming to that understanding! Sounds like you had an AWESOME run! 🙂

    • May 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      It was AWESOME, Arlene! I haven’t run more than a couple of times the past few months, so I expected a plodding, just-get-it-done kind of run. I’m so glad to have been proven wrong, because it’s four days later and I still feel better thanks to that run. 😀

  7. May 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Believe me, getting the concept of pain, whatever the cause, across to someone else is like trying to teach a pig to square dance. It just wastes both your time, and annoys both of you. (I know that’s not the quote, but I refuse to accept that there are people out there who wouldn’t get annoyed trying to teach a pig to dance. 😉 )
    I can’t say for exercise’ sake, but for getting somewhere on foot, a good song is essential. My car broke down one time, and I had to walk over a mile to get home, get some tools, and walk back to jury-rig the car sufficiently to get it home. About a block into my walk home, I was dragging! Then I remembered one of the marching songs I learned while re-enacting, started humming to myself, then singing softly, and the next thing you know, I was at home! There was only one small problem with that – it was a German marching song, and I made the mistake of singing while I walked past the American WW2 vet’s house. My wife always wondered why he gave us dirty looks after that day! (I enjoyed the “in” joke too much to tell her. That’ll bite me one day, I’m sure. 😀 )

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:25 am

      A square-dancing pig–now there’s an image that’s sure to stick with me when I’m getting frustrated! Thanks for that.

      Your marching anecdote makes me smile, too. My sister (Silver Star, that is) and I used to walk around singing because it did make long walks pass so much faster. Once in a rare while now, I’ll wish I had a song with me and remember I can make my own music a la those long childhood walks. 🙂

  8. May 21, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Lovely and brave. Sometimes it’s good to turn off the music.

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:27 am

      Anthony told me he drives without music or audiobook sometimes, the better to focus on the sounds around him and his own thoughts. That sounded so bizarre to me at the time as a driving radio listener, but now I do it once in a while, too. It’s nice to clear the head, and in a way, to see with clear eyes. 😀

  9. May 21, 2013 at 4:40 am

    And those are some cool shoes!

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:28 am

      I had a pair of Vibrams before, but one of the toes wore through very quickly! These ones feel amazing to run in, and they were only $30 thanks to Ross! So, so happy for that unexpected find, all the more so when I’m running. *cheer*

  10. May 21, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Beautiful. There is something magical about being able to jog, with only your thoughts, and using the pounding to sort out the chaos in your brain. And end up with peace at the end.

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:31 am

      What a beautiful comment! Thank you. It really does feel magical. I remember how I used to run with a CD-man held flat in my hand because I felt I needed a soundtrack to run. Straight up until that CD-man toasted it in Japan, I always listened to music while running. It was awkward running to silence at the beginning, but I came to like it after a while. Now I mix it up, or will when I find my iPod. (I’m not looking too hard for the iPod, I have to confess!)

  11. May 21, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Beautifully written. Ironically, I ran for the first time in several months the day you posted this, though I’m just reading it now. Great post.

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:32 am

      How’s it feeling? I haven’t been able to run hardly at all for a few months, so, man! It feels like magic to me right now! (Now my first effort at yoga, on the other hand? OUCH!)

  12. May 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Love “what is run can never be unrun” so very very true.

    (On a side note: I am ever so impressed with the fact that you’ve run a marathon!)

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:40 am

      I’ve run a couple, but neither too recently! The second one was either early 2006 or 2007. I’d like to run one again and see if I can come in just under 4:00. I’m curious to see if I can cajole my sister (who ran a marathon in 2011) into running one with me next year. That’d be much better than finishing fast!

      I wrote about the first marathon here. It stands as a reminder to me how powerful words can be, whether considered or not. My roommate quipped, “You’re running so much, you should run the marathon!”

      I surprised her by musing over it and saying I’d do it if I could make it the ocean and back (15ish miles or so) the next day. I made it to the ocean and back, then signed up for the marathon happening two weeks later.

      I cursed her for several miles of the run, but when I rounded that last corner and saw the finish line, I was so grateful to her for offhand comment, and all the more so when I crossed the line. That picture is my reminder what I’m capable of, even when exhausted, and of the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line so long after I wanted to stop.

      Lots of people say, “I could never run a marathon!” and I always say, “Maybe not now, but with a little training, I bet you could.” Because, man. Almost a decade later, it is still a rush to remember how it felt to cross that finish line.

  13. May 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Like Renee, I don’t know precisely what you’re referring to, but, as always, your writing is lovely and thought provoking. Run on!

    • May 27, 2013 at 7:41 am

      Thanks, Peg! I went for another run last night, and it was even better! I probably won’t run more than once or twice a week these days, but even once a week keeps me uplifted most of the way through my next run. 😀

  14. June 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Just beautiful.

  1. May 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm
  2. May 7, 2014 at 4:26 am

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