Monday, April 16, 2012

Running from the Crazy

It's no secret that, among other benefits, running can be quite therapeutic.  I recently read an account of Brian Castner's experiences as a bomb technician in Iraq.  In his forthcoming book, The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows, Castner tells the story of his frequently harrowing experiences in Iraq, either destroying and disabling IEDs and car bombs, or, in too many cases, analyzing the aftermath.  Besides living the imagery of the bloody bombings' aftermath, he also suffers from blast-induced traumatic brain injury, which affects his memory, personality, and relationships.

Castner today.
Back on U.S. soil, he had to find a way to cope, to keep "the Crazy" at bay.  "The Crazy is winning.  So I run.  I run every day, twice a day sometimes . . .  I run as fast as I can, as long as I can, my feet hitting the pavement in a furious rhythm. . . . I run, and run, and run, and in the Is try to pound out of my head what once Was."  Running can be an escape, a coping mechanism, a release.  For Castner, it was one way to keep away from the Crazy.

His regular running buddy and fellow bomb technician, Ricky, had some pretty good running advice.  Life is a race, but not like a marathon, with a set distance.  "It's not the distance that's set, it's the time . . . and you don't get to see how much time is left. . . . Forget the starter's pistol.  There is a finisher's pistol, and it could go off at any time.  You are concentrating so hard on how far you run that you have ignored how well you run.  Or enjoyed the steps you are taking today.  Learn from me.  I enjoyed each of my steps.  Are you enjoying yours?"  Good stuff.  And you have to love a book whose last line is, "The next day, I put on my shoes and go for a run."

Here's hoping you don't have bombs going off around you, but whether you do or not, enjoy life, run well, and be ready for that finisher's pistol.

Thanks to and the publisher, Random House/Doubleday for the complimentary digital review copy!
Read more about Castner at his blog, Fever Dreams.

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