I got to wrestle last month for the first time in several years. I was in San Francisco for work and did a search for local gyms that I might be able to visit for a quick workout before I went to my hotel. In the top five that popped up, one was a mixed martial arts gym that had a jiu-jitsu class at 7PM and had a one-time free pass offered online.
I was super nervous to grapple again because it’s been years. And I would be in a strange place where I didn’t know anybody. Plus, any kind of wrestling is very challenging for me because, while I’ve never been spectacular at it, I do have enough natural talent that it matters to me how well I do at it. I want to win more than I lose. And I get frustrated that I could maybe be really good at it if I had time to dedicate to it.
This night was a lot like that. I had a very good time. I won more than I lost. I met lots of nice people. And, all-in-all, I had a good showing. By the end of the session, I actually had a nick-name: Dad Strength. That’s a good sign.
Even though I left happy, the next day was predictably frustrating for me. I moped all day about things I could have done better while there, techniques I’ve gotten sloppy at and—more than anything—why I don’t find more time to grapple.
This is why I love running so much more than wrestling. It’s because I’m horrible at running and could never be competitive at it even if I quit my job and practiced full-time. I don’t torture myself wondering how good I could be because, even at my best, I’m lousy. Instead, I just smile and let myself enjoy the experience.
Last week I had one of the best runs of my life. Wendy and the kids came to Utah with me for a business trip and we stayed through the weekend to see family and attend the baby blessing of my beautiful new niece, Elizabeth Pearl.
On Friday morning, I took a break from calls and spreadsheets to run along the City Creek path, where I used to go years ago when we lived in Salt Lake City. I also dragged the kids along.
I wish I’d brought a camera, because it was beautiful. It’s a gorgeous area anyway, but the fall colors were vibrant and the air was crisp. This is what it looks like on Google Maps, but not in autumn:
The lower level is a straight run that bisects the upper horseshoe and features a manicured creek and several beautiful war memorials. Then it eventually winds into a more naturally wooded area before hitting a steep upgrade and joining the center of the upper level right at the base of the horseshoe.
It’s a lovely area and immensely popular in Salt Lake City for running, biking, walking, wedding photography, and dog Frisbee. My kids had no memory of the place, since they were infants the last time I brought them here. So it was all new experiences for them.
We had so much fun jogging around and exploring, that we decided to take a long loop through downtown. We went to Temple Square and saw the Tabernacle, the Conference Center, the reflecting pond, and—of course—the Salt Lake City Temple.
We walked all around the temple and admired its engravings and architecture. I showed the kids how the moonstones around the base of the temple form a one year calendar as you circle its outer walls. And I showed them how the big dipper is engraved into one of the spires so that its top point becomes a representation of the North Star. Ancient temples from multiple traditions were built to be representations of the whole universe and the center of space and time. The Salt Lake Temple follows that tradition beautifully.
Then, realizing how much time had passed, we ran back up to City Creek and tried to take multiple short cuts to the upper rim where we were parked. These didn’t work at all, but did bring us through several interesting detours on deer trails, over streams, up a small drop-off embankment, and right through a hidden camp of tarp and rope where a small group Salt Lake’s homeless takes secret shelter.
Once we finally got back to our car, the kids had run five miles or more, were very hungry, and were slightly irritated with me.
But I was as happy as could be.
I told them that this has been one of the best runs of my life. It compared only to a long run I took with my Dad back when I was 14 (the age my daughter is now). This was when we lived on a military base in Germany, and it was October 3, 1990. It was the day that East Germany and West Germany reunited and became one country again.
It was a Wednesday, but he got work off and I had school off. Everyone had the day off for this huge occasion.
So Dad and I went running up in the dense forest mountains around the picturesque Heidelberg castle. When we reached the top, we discovered a windstorm had blown down hundreds of trees, which were now trimmed and stacked neatly. By scrambling up the huge stacks of lumber, we got a view of the surrounding valley, river, town, and castle that was unrivaled even by the nearby tourist lookout. Afterward, we wound down through an old German neighborhood where everyone was happy on the street and waved good morning to us from the large open windows where they draped their bedrolls in the fresh autumn air.
I called my Dad this past week to reflect on that experience and how much fun we’d had on that run through Germany’s hills. He remarked how grateful he was for those kinds of experiences together and how easy they are to miss out on. “On any given day,” he said, “it’s just so easy to feel like you’re too busy to take a break and go do something like that.”
How grateful I am that we found that time together all those years ago. It’s one of my fondest memories. And, being just 14 at the time, I didn’t realize then that it was a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to be standing with my Dad on top of a stack of windblown trees overlooking one of the most beautiful places on earth.
As I think now of these two wonderful runs—the two best of my life—I am glad that I took time out of my busy schedule to connect with people I love, to breathe fresh air, to move my blood, and to enjoy this wonderful earth.
I was reminded of my favorite quotes by Dieter Uchtdorf:
Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life….I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished. I can’t see it. Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.