My Uncle Matt gave me a gift and gave up something of great value to provide it for me. I do not think he knows how precious his gift is to me or how grateful I am for it.
He gave it to me during my teens and early 20s when we ran together. It is the gift of running. I have always been grateful for the time he spent with me, running with me, bonding with me; those were special times for us. However, I was completely oblivious to the sacrifice he was making until one particular run when I realized he was giving up something every time we ran, something very important to him. During one of his visits to Waterford, when the weather was not that great for running, I offered to take him to the gym to run on the treadmills, and he took me up on it. We ran on two treadmills right next to each other just as if we were outside. I proceeded to build up to my usual pace and he was right on with me. Then I noticed he began to increase his speed, more and more. He topped out at a pace three minutes per mile faster than my top pace. He was running hard, breathing fast and sweating like crazy. I was blown away; I thought he was going to hurt himself! I thought maybe he didn’t know how to use the machine and was getting himself into trouble and so I asked him if he was OK. “Yeah!” is all he said and that’s when I learned that my uncle was a very fast runner. I was impressed and proud of him and then it hit me and my heart melted. When we ran together, he ran slower for me. He ran slower than his usual pace whenever we ran together and never said a word about it. He would ask periodically, “You doin’ OK, Marg?” and the rest was conversation and sometimes just peaceful quiet enjoying each other’s presence. He never asked if we could pick up the pace and it never dawned on me that he was letting me set it or that it was much slower than he usually ran.
These days I am a faster runner and go much longer distances than two miles. Sometimes if it is a tough run I imagine Uncle Matt running next me and remember those times with great joy. Running is my saving grace. It is sometimes the only thing that will calm me down on the most stressful of days. Running at my pace gets me back into balance both emotionally and physically. The time pounding the pavement for me is sacred time alone with the Lord. My mother told me recently that that’s how she recalls my Uncle Matt describing his running. I realize now what a sacrifice it was for him to say “sure” every time I asked if I could run with him. I am deeply touched that he gave up this most sacred and necessary time to run fast with the Lord in order to run slow with me. Of course, he would never admit that it was a sacrifice at all. If you asked him about it he would say that he considered himself “privileged to run with his beautiful goddaughter.”
My Uncle Matt has given me an abundance of wonderful gifts throughout my life, and one of the most precious gifts is the gift of running. Thank you, Uncle Matt, for going slow. I love you.