I guess I should start by congratulating you, because you got what you obviously wanted. I was out jogging, and you raced by on your bikes and smacked me a good one across the back of the head as you passed. You caused me to stop running; you caused me to shout frustrated obscenities after you; you caused me to be genuinely upset. So, congratulations are clearly in order. Mission accomplished.
As assaults go, it’s probably the most minor example that can be committed; the word is more commonly attached to vastly more terrible and consequential acts of aggression. It almost feels like too strong a label for such a minuscule thing, and I hesitated in reporting it to campus security for exactly that reason. I worried I was making too much of the situation. Maybe I am. And maybe I simply made too appealing a target: a large guy clad in unflatteringly tight running gear, moving at a snail’s pace, clearly lost in his own little world. No doubt I made for quite the comical figure, just too ridiculous for you to resist the urge to hit me.
Is that the reason? Or is it something else? I’d really like to know. Reasons are important, you see. Not to get all heavy and philosophical, but the human talent for reason is one of the key characteristics that distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We’re able to assess the world around us and seek to understand how it works, and we can apply that same method of analysis to our own minds. We can better understand our choices, and the impulses behind our actions and the actions of others. Since last night I’ve been trying to understand the reasons behind your actions. Of the various possibilities, two seem by far the most likely: either you thought it would be funny, or you didn’t really think at all.
I mean, it’s obvious you found it amusing. You were laughing your heads off as you rode away. You’d successfully hurt and humiliated me. Oh, what merry larks! But did you really stop and think, beforehand, that it would be funny? I mean, somewhere along the line, did you consciously decide that it would bring you amusement and happiness to inflict pain on another human being, on a total stranger who had done you no wrong? Somewhere along the line, did you make the deliberate calculation that a moment’s worth of pleasure in achieving power over me was more important than my dignity and well-being? It’s a bit excessive to describe such a minor act in such grandiose terms, I know, but it really does boil down to the question: did you act as sadists?
Or is the second possibility true: did you not think about it at all? Was there no moment of conscious thought, no mental review process? Did the idea of hitting me and the promise of amusement from it come so quickly that you never stopped to assess it? In other words, did you fail to employ the knack for reason that’s the birthright of our species? Did you act instead as mindless beasts? I’m not sure which answer I’d prefer – neither one is any comfort to me, and I can’t really imagine that you’re comfortable being a sadist or an animal either. Outside of certain private circles, those are hardly labels considered desirable. It isn’t for my own sake that I wish you hadn’t hit me; no damage was done, and I’ve been hit far worse than that in my time. Rather, it’s for your sake that I wish you hadn’t done it, because I wish you’d realized you could be so much more than sadists or animals. I wish you’d acted as decent human beings instead.
And while we’re on that topic, there’s another key distinction between human beings and other creatures: we have a keen awareness of our own mortality. I’m going to die someday. I was out there running last night because, frankly, I’d prefer that day come later rather than sooner. Someday you’ll die as well. Eventually our names will be forgotten. All that will be left is the legacy of the countless tiny ways we impacted the lives of other folks traveling with us on the journey to the grave. It’s not a long journey. Life is short, and every hour, every minute, every second that passes is one we’ll never get back. I’ve wasted plenty of them, but I’m doing my best right now to make those that remain to me actually count for something. I’m doing my best to make myself a person, and it’s truly my wish that you’ll do the same. That’s what this is, really: a wish. An expression of hope for you. I know you’ll never read this, but nevertheless, I hope that someday soon, you’ll stop and take a moment to reflect on your actions, and to realize the scope of what they say about you as individuals. I addressed you earlier as boys, and that’s what you are: teenagers, just now beginning to define identities for yourselves, just now deciding what kind of people you want to be.
I believe you can be better people than this, and though I’ll never see it, I hope you’ll prove me right.
As many of my followers will know, for the last three months I’ve been training for The British 10k, a running race held in London, England on July 13th, 2014 (tomorrow). I’m running in support of two organizations: the MS Trust (on whose team I’m registered), and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham charity. Through your phenomenal generosity, an incredible £1,300 ($2,225 / €1,635) has been raised for these two groups so far – and the fundraising page is still open! Thank you so much to everyone who’s donated and helped spread the word. It means a huge amount not only to me personally, but more importantly to all the people who’ll benefit from the good work these groups provide.
A few folks in London have asked for details on how to come and cheer me on (my deepest thanks for that, too). If you’re up for it, I’d recommend you head to one of these two spots:
• Charing Cross (by the Tesco Express)
• Parliament Square (in front of St Margaret’s Church)
The MS Trust squads will be at both of these locations, so you’ll be able to cheer on my teammates and also stand a better chance of finding me in the throng. Alternatively, there are some other recommended vantage points listed here. Either way, look for the chap wearing these:
As shown, my bib number is 20358; it’s also in blue, which is only for team runners (red numbers are for individual participants), so that should hopefully make me slightly easier to spot as well. Post-race (once I pick up my gear and cool down) I’ll probably be heading to Walkers of Whitehall, and from there… well, I’ll play that one by ear. I imagine a pint or two will be in order. (Important edit: rain is forecast, so bring an umbrella!)
The race officially starts at 9:35am. They’ll be staggering runners in waves, so it may take several minutes for me to cross the starting line. I’m hoping for an overall time between 1hr10m and 1hr15m, so I should be at the finish line somewhere around 10:50am. The full route is on Google Maps. You may also be able to follow my progress live on Runkeeper; I’ve not experimented with this feature, but it’s worth a shot.
I really can’t thank everyone enough for their support over the last few months. Whether you’ve donated money, helped get the word out, offered moral support, or simply put up with my constant whinging on Twitter, it’s all meant the world to me. I’ve never attempted anything like this before, and without you all pulling for me, I’m sure I would never have made it this far. Now I just have to make it a little bit further.
London, here I come. Allons-y!