Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

11 March 2014

Weather or Not, Here I Come

This Saturday I hope to compete in my second marathon, the Two Rivers Marathon in Lackawaxen, PA.
The Hardware in Store
In the last couple of weeks before a race, the runners "taper," i.e., decrease their weekly mileage to give their bodies a rest. While the body rests, however, the mind does not. At this point the anxieties come to the fore. My concern of choice has been the weather. I confess that I have checked the Weather Channel's website and iPhone app as many as ten times in one day.

"You ought to know that forecasts change from day to day! You're not going to get a reliable prediction ten days out!"

I was talking to a friend yesterday, a former marathoner. Since I first contemplated the distance, this man has been a source of encouragement and challenge. This time he offered a challenge.

He gets on me about my propensity to dwell on negative thoughts and uncontrollable contingencies. Certainly I can do nothing about the weather, so (to his mind) the best thing I could do between today and Friday is stop checking the weather for Saturday. I accepted this assignment with the customary groan.

"But how can I pack if I don't know the weather?"

I began to think it through: Pack for the coldest possible day, but allow for some adjustment. At my last weather check, the day may start in the 20s with some snow showers, going up to the mid 40s.

Our seminary philosophy classes didn't teach us much about Francis Bacon, but the famous saying "Knowledge is power" came to mind. I'll say this: my eagerness for knowledge exerts power over me, or rather I give tremendous power to my curiosity.

This past winter may not have been the worst in recent times, either in terms of the temperatures or the snowfall totals, but it seemed that way sometimes. I don't think I've paid so much attention to the conditions as I did this year, only because I wanted to keep running outside. As for the single-digit days, one of them was not a running day on my schedule, on another I capitulated and stayed on the treadmill, and once I ran outside, just to say I did. Were there any more than three?

If I were a blaming man, I'd attribute (yeah, that sounds better than "blame") my weather worries to the social media. At the first whiff of snow or ice, people would saturate my news feed with forecasts, school delays and closings, humorous references to mass acquisition of bread, milk, and eggs, etc. It could get crazy real soon, in my head.

Once, even I weighed in by posting the Chicago song, "Song of the Evergreens," which features longtime trumpet player Lee Loughnane in one of his rare vocal offerings. The tune includes repetition of the word "snow." You wanna hear it? Here it goes:
I can say this much: I've kept up the training schedule all this time, somehow balancing it with parish responsibilities (at least nobody has told me otherwise), so come the weekend, whatever the conditions, I'll give it my best. I haven't been aiming to beat my previous time of 3 hours, 36 minutes, and 12 seconds, but that would be nice. Thanks to this cold, my legs have been stiffer, my gait stilted, my pace stunted. Wearing so many layers couldn't have helped, either.

As for the next marathon ("How could you be thinking about that?"), I recall the words of running giant Frank Shorter: "You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming." Now that's discipline--which I don't yet have. Perhaps a big-city race, like Philly or somewhere else close-by. My friend has suggested the Marine Corps Marathon. It will be much bigger than the race in my current sights, which may max out at 250 contestants or so. We'll see.

I am looking forward to Saturday. Pray for favorable conditions, safety for all competitors and well-wishers, swift times, and speedy recoveries.


  1. Good luck Father Zelonis. Quality, indeed, goes the distance. So does hard work and dedication. You have exhibited all three of those running virtues during this winter of discontent. You are going to have a great race!!

    1. Joe, many thanks for the encouragement. I look forward to this event, even if it is on the Ides of March!