Originally published August 6, 2014
On August 2nd 2014, I had the honor of attending a perfect wedding. On this momentous occasion, I witnessed infinite joy and dreams within dreams. This beautiful new family created a wonderful narrative. They’re joining as one, symbolized by the wedding ring, representing infinity and harmony. United, they are spreading their love in space and time, in all directions, throughout eternity. As I sat there with great friends and my beautiful wife, I was very touched by the ceremony. I cried out of happiness of what I witnessed. Interestingly, the groom and his father,(the wedding officiant) are accomplished runners, i.e., sub 2 min club, and this helped engender a new dream. After this momentous ceremony I sat in Dorris Ranch eating a wonderful vegan Mexican dish. Surrounded by great friends, I was admiring the picturesque NW sunset and taking in the heat and cool breeze on my skin. A child-like wonder and awe at the grandeur and beauty of life entered my heart. At that moment, Rage, an accomplished athlete in his own right, snapped me out of my trance by blurting out the following: “I think you can go sub 4 minutes!” Rage wore a big smile and a sparkle in his eye. I paused for a moment and then asked, “Are you referring to the 1500 meters or the mile?” He answered without hesitation, “The 1500 meters.” Another pause. A sea of infinity and invincibility was stirring in my soul. A dream and new narrative was there for the taking. I could choose the easy route and pick the realistic 1500 meter goal. Or, I could shoot for the moon and choose the hero’s journey. I could pick the impossible dream even if for just a fleeting moment. I could pick a call to adventure that would take almost supernatural powers and require other worldly transformations! I decided to absorb myself in the moment, enjoy the NW summer breeze, and immerse myself in my wife’s perfect smile. It was exhilarating to be alive and cocooned in dreams within dreams as time stood still. Very similar to how the time stood still as I clocked a 1:59.1.
I joined the Sub 2 Club for 800 meters on July 31st, 2014 at the ripe age of 38 years old in historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Yet the story of chasing dreams started many moons ago in the 5th grade as a 10 year old boy. It all started in the inner city of Miami, Florida, as I pursued my dream to play in the NBA, chasing the rags to riches story of leaving the inner city and becoming rich and famous. The magical lives of the NBA superstars I idolized was living proof I could do it too! The only fast thing I wanted to do was grow fast in height, so that I could swiftly attain my NBA dream. I did not think about running much back then. This was almost 30 years ago, July 1986. When the memory of this early childhood dream arises, an energy, excitement and a feeling of invincibility overtakes me. This feeling that overtakes me, is the same bliss that I felt on the momentous occasion of July 31st, 2014. I felt this way all day, even weeks, before the dream was fulfilled. In other words, the journey of chasing sub 2, in many ways is richer than the final time on the stopwatch.
As a 10 year old my only goal in life was to play enough basketball until I made it to the NBA. This equation was simple: hard work gave results. It was easy math. This was a real dream. It was palpable. I was really good. My free throws, left hand, and baby hook with both hands were automatic. I was a star in the 6th grade, even if it was on a 7 foot rim. I could beat most kids in a one-on-one no matter how much taller they were than me. This is how I sharpened my craft and how I would achieve my dream. I would take taller kids to “school” on the basketball court, especially my best friend Suave.
I spent countless hours on the basketball court with Suave, and we also played NBA jams video games aspiring to be the next Michael Jordan. If I was not practicing I was visualizing myself making free throws, since even then, I knew this was effective in improving one’s free throw percentage. Daily, I participated in three practice sessions: on the hard courts(physical practice), in the virtual realm(video games), and in the mental realm(visualizations). This amazing dream was pursued until the 8th grade when I realized that my ambition would not attain fruition.
When I was placed on the bench for the JV team my dream of making the NBA slowly started to crumble. Suave was on varsity, and he moved on to play college basketball at an extremely high level. A diatribe by a pot-bellied security guard changed everything. An impromptu cafeteria speech at North Miami Junior High went something like, “Millions of young kids have the dream to make it to the NBA and become the next great Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, or Larry Bird. However, making it to the NBA bench is an exceptional accomplishment. It is also exceptionally hard and like a miracle. In fact, winning the lottery is easier to accomplish than making it to the NBA. Think about the many millions of kids around the world who are aspiring to make it to the NBA and the limited amount of teams and roster spots.” This logic struck a profound chord in my heart. Once I heard this speech and the odds, my NBA dream completely shattered. Even without having taken statistics, I followed this precise and cruel logic. The odds were brutally stacked against a short Cuban. I suddenly realized that I would not achieve my vision. There was no time to dwell in the sorrow of defeat, since I quickly found a new goal in life. Deep within my consciousness, an energy, excitement and feeling of invincibility with the creation of a new dream.
Suddenly, almost as fast as the NBA dream faded away I constructed the dream that as a Cuban, I could become the next Jose Canseco and make it to the major leagues. Surely the gods of numbers and probability would be kinder to me with this new dream. My rationale was that in the MLB, it did not matter that I was short. In many ways, being short was advantageous in baseball. Also, I was Cuban, and the logic that my 14 year old brain contrived, was that all short Cubans were awesome in baseball. I would make it to the MLB and get my family out of poverty and dependence on food stamps. So I picked up my aluminum bat and in a little one bedroom apartment took hundreds of practice swings. My vision was so intense that I sleep walked one night, taking practice swings in the living room, and I put a hole in the wall. I went back to bed and have no recollection of the event. I knew that Rafael Palmerio perfected his sweet swing with daily practice swings(while awake), so I would have the sweet swing of Palmerio combined with Canseco’s speed and power. I would chase this dream of making it to the MLB with zest, vigor, and my natural speed.
During baseball try-outs in the 8th grade was my first recollection of being fast. After taking a practice swing, I sprinted from home plate to first base. There were many other kids that went before me. The Cuban coach with a stern face blurted out the times of 5.5, 5.8, 4.7, etc. I went up to home base in my red Nike sneakers(no spikes), took a practice swing and darted to first. Coach blurted out my unofficial time of 3.9 seconds! I had no idea what this meant but there was a buzz and energy in the air. Just based on my home to first time alone, I was considered to have some “talent” as a left fielder. The fastest home to first in history, are greats and hall of famers Mickey Mantle, Bo Jackson, and Deion Sanders with a time of 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, respectively. Good company as a 14 year old eh? I was a perpetual pinch runner with no bat speed and no talent for baseball. My Dream to make it to the MLB died as a senior in high school, but another new dream was born. I did not wallow in despair, since I was filled with the renewed energy of going to college and beyond.
Sometimes when one dream becomes fulfilled, it creates the window for a new dream to take root. This time, the dream to be the first in my family to make it to college was born. That dream became manifest. Along with the new dream of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, and serving this great country in the US Navy. Those dreams have become a living reality and are fulfilled. However, during the hard work and countless hours necessary to fulfill the dream of being a doctor, I did not have time to run. As a pre-med student, medical student, and resident, running was either non-existent or an after thought. That is all in perfect timing, because as I was living and fulfilling one dream, the space was created for a new dream to emerge.
In grade school, high school, college and medical school I never ran. I was too busy chasing many other dreams. Not a single race; so I had a lot of catching up to do. I did not start training seriously until I had relocated to Eugene in 2010 at the age of 34. Naturally my serious running starts in TrackTown USA. Previously my running while in the Navy and residency was maybe 20 to 30 miles per week at best. I was known as the “Jacksonville Jogger” by my Eugene friends. For the past 4 years in Eugene I have averaged 50 to 60 miles per week and this is where a new story, and dream begins. An epic journey to pursue the coveted sub 2 minutes club in the 800 meters. This was not the NBA, or MLB type dream. Yet chasing this dream in my late thirties, with a full time job and family, is an awesome journey. It sparked the boundless energy of childhood, and the chase was on.
As children we always dream big and do not think consciously of the mechanics of our dream’s fulfillment. This is a wonderful thing. We have colorful dreams at night but also have many vivid dreams during waking hours. We have infinite potential as children. We dream of being astronauts, soccer players, movie stars, super heroes, etc. I vividly remember as a seven year old I thought that I could fly and become the Amazing Spider Man, as I jumped from couch to couch in my living room. Also, I exquisitely recall telling my mom that I was going to live forever and never die! As I proclaimed this, I leapt to the next couch. As adults, we become calloused by the monotony of day to day reality. We lose our capacity to dream big.
Adults dream at night but never dream big with their eyes open. The zestful joy of big dreams has vanished and are gone forever. Why do adults lose this amazing capacity to dream? Having a dream to shoot for on a day to day basis creates the journey. En route to fulfilling one’s dream and fully living the journey is actually the most gratifying thing. In fact, each step in the journey is what infuses life with meaning. Sadly, adults lose this capacity to live a full life and many walk around like zombies. Numb to life they do not experience the full spectrum of emotions that comes with chasing a dream. Any dream has the elements of hope, a call to adventure, challenges and struggle, pains, joys, highs, lows, risk, reward, purpose, community, connection, enemies and friendships. These elements on a journey are real and symbolic and enlivens the individual and community. As Joseph Campbell coined it, “It is a hero’s journey.” Going after a dream, is a heroic act of courage. The journey brings joy, meaning and liberation.
Chasing your dreams and keeping them alive should happen effortlessly and in many ways synchronistically. Dreams are a great way to keep a zest for life and serve as guideposts to achieve grand and wondrous things. It is said that a conspiracy of improbabilities come together and bring about something unusual, unexpected and miraculous. This is exactly how my journey as a runner has unfolded. Achieving my dream of joining the sub 2 minutes club has been rewarding beyond words. It was the journey not the 1:59.1 on the clock that was most significant part of the dream. The fulfillment was found in the daily runs at zero dark thirty, the philosophical conversations, the good and bad races, the camaraderie, and solidarity that was fostered. I am forever indebted to the friendships from EE, KOS, Rage, Commander, Big O, Diesel, Shuffelope, Humungus, Big Easy, Wonder Boy, Macasaraus, Triangle, Dripper, Flash, T-Bone, Doggie, The Machine, Big G, Mr VO2, McWheeze, FNG for life, Booder, Coconut, Mr. International, JV, Varsity and countless others; sorry if I missed your nickname. This journey has brought me new friends, deeper connections in the community and with my family, and more appreciation for the hard work and dedication that athletes have.
Rage blurted out the following, “I think you can go sub 4 minutes!” Rage wore a big smile and a sparkle in his eye. With childlike zestful energy, a big smile on my face, and a sparkle in my eye, should I choose the arduous and near impossible journey? I revealed to Rage my secret choice. I told Rage to keep this secret very private. I told him that a 2 year training cycle begins today. Like I felt as a seven year old child with supernatural powers to fly and the gift of immortality, I also could not keep this great secret quiet for long. Can I become the first citizen masters runner in the history of the world to run a sub 4 Minute Mile!?!? Always remember to dream big and let the journey begin!