The Tortoise, the Hare and the Harried 1L
Funny how a children’s fairy tale can point the way to a vibrant and satisfying Law Life.
Aesop’s classic The Tortoise and the Hare does just that. We all know the story – at least the Bugs Bunny version. And yet, in the whirl and blur of our modern world, it is easy to forget its valuable lessons. Pace yourself. Slow and steady wins the race. Snooze, you lose.
Luckily, I met a wee guru who gave me a fresh take on these timeless truths. It happened on a sparkling November afternoon here in Blue Heaven, during my daily run on the sun-kissed Bolin Creek Trail, when I encountered a young mother pushing a baby in a stroller with a preschooler walking beside her.
As I flew past them – and by “flew” I mean “shuffled” – the older child shouted joyfully and took off in hot pursuit.
“Look at me,” he exulted, as he scooted by on his chubby, churning legs and flashing Spiderman sneakers. “I’m faster than you.”
Indeed he was. For about thirty seconds. At which point he gave out.
“Look at me,” I couldn’t resist whispering as I zipped … er, shuffled … past the winded lad. “I’m faster than you.”
A World Beyond Sweat
I started running as a teenager in the 1970s. And though I’ve slowed over the decades, I’ve never stopped. The initial spark came from two runners I loved and admired – namely, my father and older brother. Other role models – Bill Rodgers, Kip Keino, Gayle Barron, Steve Prefontaine, Russ Pate, even Ralph “Roadrunner” Garr of my beloved Atlanta Braves – kept the flame lit.
But soon I was running for one simple, selfish reason: it made me a better person.
Better as in calmer and clearer, happier and healthier, less stressed and skittish. I believe there are few problems that cannot be solved – or at least put in perspective – by sunshine, fresh air and a long run.
My first year in law school was not fun. I was a nervous wreck. I felt like a fraud. When called upon in class, I sometimes froze, head bowed mutely as my mind blanked, and titters rose around me. That summer I retreated to the safety of my small South Carolina hometown and vowed not to leave.
My father responded by asking me to help him train for the Carolina Marathon.
“I need you,” he said, and that was all it took.
For many hours and many miles, early morning and late at night, we ran together. We talked about everything and nothing. We shared our hopes and fears. Often no words were spoken – the only sounds were our footfalls and breathing – and those silent conversations are the ones I miss most.
That fall, I resumed my law studies with fresh optimism. Turns out I needed my father more than he needed me. A few months later, he and I crossed the finish line of the Carolina Marathon in under four hours – side by side, holding hands – which was icing on the cake.
To Jog, Perchance to Dream
These days I find myself racing toddlers on jogging paths. Which is fine. I am in the season of slowing down, while my young Bolin Creek buddy is in the season of speeding up. I thank him for reminding me of the sheer pleasure of physical movement – any type of movement – running, walking, cycling, synchronized swimming, unicycle hockey, even toe wrestling. Soon he will be leaving me in the dust, and I will cheer him on.
Back in the ‘70s, the book Running & Being was a fixture on our family’s coffee table. In it, Dr. George Sheehan writes of “a world beyond sweat” where the combination of exercise, play and competition can open doors to personal revelation and growth.
The goal is not adding years to your life, Dr. Sheehan says, but adding life to your years.
So I will keep lacing on my shoes and plugging ahead like the tortoise – which, incidentally, can live a hundred years or more, while the average hare rarely makes it to five.
But oh, what I wouldn’t give for one more run with my father, to stride in unison, to breathe together, to grant each other strength.