Saying thank you for Michael Phelps

michael phelps teary-eyed

I took this while watching Michael Phelps listen to the National Anthem being played yet another time for yet another gold medal. He cried; I cried.

As I have mentioned a time or two (or 37), I am enamored with the Olympic swimmers in general, and  with Michael Phelps in particular. Were I to have streaming across my laptop an ongoing film of him moving through the water, in slow motion or in his usual speediness, I would never close the lid.

But I don’t, so I do. Periodically, though, I do sneak yet another peek at this Under Armour video, which made me cry the first time I saw it, again when I watched it while my son was trying on shoes at the Under Armour store, and every time I’ve seen it since.

When the Olympics swimming competition was underway, I marveled at and was mesmerized by the astounding beauty of the (OK, especially his) human body — that elongated leap of faith into the pool, the grace in every stroke, the culmination of exhausting practices I can’t even begin to fathom.

As a result, on days I rarely ever swim, I’ve felt this compulsion to be lured to the pool; to pull my own body through the water; to stop long enough to let my crazy-fast heart slow down before taking off again; to look at my watch at times with pleasant surprise. It is on a much smaller, much slower, much clumsier scale than what I’ve been watching, but that doesn’t matter. This is my workout, and it makes me happy.

The morning before Michael Phelps’s first evening competition, I swam 62 lengths (of a 25-yard pool, not 50 meters like his) this way: 18 lengths to warm up, resting a minute, then swimming two lengths as fast as I could. Then I swam eight slowly and two quickly, repeating that until I had swum 60 lengths, then added on another speedier two, just for good measure. It was a good swim, and I was tickled at the soreness in my arms.

Two days later, after yet another night pacing my living room floor, jumping up and down as each race ended and — I’m not ashamed to say — wiping away tears, I repeated the workout…this time, 15 seconds faster.

So for the beauty of the human body in motion, for being inspired to do better, and for the combination of those two in the form of Michael Phelps… The Grateful Runner says thank you.

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