“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I hadn’t really signed up to run a marathon at all. I had signed up for something that kept me running from myself.”
I’ve always loved running. The last time I ran a marathon I was living in Monterrey, Mexico. I wasn’t out of the closet and so signed up to run a marathon because it seemed like a good excuse to not have to go out on the weekends.
It became too exhausting pretending to hit on women, trying to be someone I wasn’t. Running a marathon was a reason to avoid being set up and having to answer questions about why I didn’t have a girlfriend. “Sorry guys, can’t go out tonight. I have to train in the morning,” became my saving grace.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I hadn’t really signed up to run a marathon at all. I had signed up for something that kept me running from myself.
My aunt used to tell me, “You’re going to move to Mexico and fall and love with a beautiful Mexican woman and never come back.” Well, part of that is true. I did fall in love, but it wasn’t with a beautiful Mexican woman.
I came out while living in Mexico. I remember going to the internet cafes that seemed to be on every corner where I lived. I used to research what being gay was and if there was something I could easily do to not be. I never found anything very helpful, so I remember setting up a fake email account to anonymously email my old pastor about his take on being gay. I told him about “a friend” I knew who was attracted to men and so wanted to get his perspective. I knew what I heard growing up, but I thought maybe he’d give me a different answer.
Instead, he sent me an article from a Christian magazine about a man who had “homosexual desires.” This man was married to a beautiful wife and had two beautiful children. He was successful in keeping his homosexual desires at bay for more than six years and each night, he and his wife would get on their knees and pray, thanking God for delivering him from his sin.
I remember reading the article and thinking how awful it sounded. I remember thinking about the man’s wife and how women in general need to feel loved. They need to feel attractive and desired and I wondered if he was ever really able to do that for her. Sure, they had two kids and a seemingly successful marriage by my old pastor’s standards, but how did she feel in their marriage.
Then I had an image of a scenario in my mind. I envisioned the two parents at a soccer meeting after school. One of their kids was on the soccer team, so I thought what if one day, a new father who had just moved to town brought his kid to a meeting. As he walked in, what if just for a split second the father who every night was on his knees with his wife in prayer, glanced at the new father. Just for a split second, he checked him out. And in that split second, his wife noticed. I thought about how it would make her feel. A marriage has to be built on trust and in that moment, her trust in him would be fractured.
I realized I wouldn’t ever be able to marry a woman for the very reason it could cause another life to feel uncertain about the one in which they lived. One of the fundamental needs all humans share is safety and thinking about that man’s wife, I couldn’t imagine she ever truly felt safe in her marriage.
I decided to sign up for the L.A. Marathon in March 2017 for a few different reasons. Speaking to a group of seventh graders this week while on a PFLAG panel, I witnessed a young girl come out to her class for the first time. Through her tears, I saw her strength. I was reminded about the power we have in sharing authentically from our hearts and how no one can ever take authentic power away.
Sometimes, we’ll go to pretty far lengths to avoid looking at our lives and to keep something about ourselves hidden. We might stay in a marriage we don’t feel safe in, we might move to another country to come out of the closet, or we might run a marathon in hopes of continuing to run from ourselves.
And sometimes, we’ll do something as a symbolic gesture to show ourselves that how we did it before was simply because we didn’t know any better. By doing it again, we’re showing ourselves it’s okay now. That no matter what, it will be okay.
I’ve decided to run in the L.A. Marathon for anyone who has ever felt like they had to hide something or couldn’t fully be themselves. I want to run 26.2 miles as a symbolic gesture for the woman and her husband who got on their knees every night and prayed. I want to run for the little girl who came out to her class this week and for any other young person struggling to come to terms with themselves. And most importantly, I want to run for myself.
This time, I’m not running to run away. I’ll be running to run with, alongside and towards. And this time, training won’t be an excuse to hide, but a reminder of what it is to be free.
If there’s something you’re trying to avoid or run from, trust me, from someone who has crossed the finish line, with arms high in the air, it’s going to be okay.
People may not agree or will question you, but it’s never about them. It’s always about what’s best for you and your life.
Keep going towards yourself; you won’t ever go wrong. And trust that no matter what, it WILL be okay.
Photo: Flickr/MIchael Dourasch