Well hello, nice to meet you. This is somewhat awkward. Meeting you, I mean, like this. Some of you already know a bit about me through my writings, but I’m assuming there has been a huge spike in my traffic by the time this goes live, because I’m thinking a lot of you recently ended up here after seeing me on the cover of Runner’s World. Yes, that happened. And I’m as surprised as I am humbled. The thing with being on the cover of Runner’s World and having my sort of “15 minutes of fame”, now extended to maybe 20 minutes by the power of social media, is that I feel a small manner of responsibility, of preserving my identity, of making sure that who I am is laid front and center for anyone who may want to engage with me further past just reading through some of my blog posts. I don’t want to be elusive, misrepresented, and just plain something that I’m not. If we’re talking about making friends and enemies, I err on the side of honesty and let come what may. This might seem an unnecessary introduction, but I still feel it worthy, so bear with me on this initial post, then read on to others if you’d like. Let’s just get into it.
My name is Scott Spitz and as you probably gathered from the Runner’s World profile, I’m a runner and a cancer patient. I’m also a number of other accepted identities, whether that be an anarchist, atheist, parent, skeptic, dork, and so on. I’m human, which is to say, very inconsistent (I refuse the idea of being “flawed”), and I won’t pretend to be anything else, so if you’ve come here looking for some idyllic representation of a “cancer warrior” or “admirable role model”, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. What I would advise, as I practice with others, is gathering what suits you, evaluating, and either tolerating or eschewing the rest. That’s my advice anyways. With that in mind, I feel compelled to clarify a few things so you know what my premises are and what to expect from this blog should you stick around.
I love to run. Duh. I discovered my talent and passion for running at a young age and although I spent a number of years without it as a central component to my life, I was fortunate enough to rediscover it at the most opportune time. I am not just a “runner” though, I am a competitive runner. A competitive, distance runner. A vegan, competitive, distance runner. I could probably add more descriptors, but that should be suitable. All this is to say that I don’t separate my politics from my recreation, and my recreation is to a degree that most would find obsessive and excessive. I feel most myself in racing shorts, completing 100 mile weeks, and daily seeking an experience that has never been matched by anything else but running. It isn’t just an act. To me, it is an experience, an emotional state, an accomplishment in it’s own right, but also a reaction to the passivity of our daily lives. Running makes each day worth living…and when I don’t run, well, you know how that feels. Running feels like my own private superpower and to let that power go unfulfilled just feels, for a lack of better term, wrong. Absolutely, undeniably wrong. That, to keep it succinct, is how I view myself as a runner.
I’m also vegan, as should be very apparent. But I’m not the vegan stereotype that is portrayed in the media today. Ok, that stretches the truth a bit…stereotypes exist for a reason, but rest assured, I’ve moved past the more annoying traits that come with over excitable individuals who have discovered a new identity, lifestyle, and wealth of information that must be shared. Admittedly, I went through all that, but this was 20 years ago when most of you probably had never heard the term vegan and so couldn’t care less. Yes, I went vegan back in 1994, and I did so for ethical reasons, which defines my approach to much in life, and remains the basis for my decision. There are a lot of reasons to engage the vegan lifestyle – health, environmental, etc. – and I won’t mince words about it all, but now I do so with a little more social tact and genuine consideration of alternate viewpoints. That said, I do feel adopting veganism is a crucial step for a moral individual and society to take in order to truly live up to our aspirations of compassion, care, stewardship, love, and acceptance. Too often we throw around these words as feel good affirmations instead of doing the actual work to make them a reality. Going vegan and liberating animals from their positions of confinement, both within our social structure and in cages, is the easiest way for the individual to affect real and lasting change…immediately. I urge you to click through some of my links to find more information about making a permanent transition.
I’m also an atheist…which is rightfully criticized for saying very little about a person. Of the many identities I’ve accepted, I specifically choose to clarify this one, because I feel it is a crucial aspect of my overall worldview and approach to my potentially fatal disease. The fear of cancer isn’t so much about the ravages of the disease as it is the abbreviated timeline and the forced consideration of one’s mortality. It is about not just CONSIDERING one’s death, but very concretely KNOWING it, in the short term. This isn’t a mental exercise anymore, it’s a reality. But hey, our mortality is always a reality. Everyone one of us has the potential to die tonight, or tomorrow, or in a month…but often those are considerations of chance and risk, of not stepping in front of a bus, of hoping the pilot flies us to safety, and although they may be legitimate concerns, they are simply that, concerns. Disease and the process of evolution and survival taking place within our bodies is not a “concern” as it is an unavoidable physical reality. It can be said we are in the state of dying and so to consider what happens at the end of that process and onward becomes of the utmost importance…at least for one’s preferred way of handling the emotional stress of considering mortality and the desperately hoped for “afterlife” or recognition of the survival instinct.
So yes, I am an atheist, and I came to that accepted identity around the age of 22, which has held immeasurable importance in my dealing with cancer and the potential abbreviated end of my life (which, by the way, seems to be halted and maybe, just maybe, potentially reversed at this point). See, when I was hit with the diagnosis I had already come to terms with what it meant to die and be dead, with nothing to follow. I was ok with that. I accepted it and appreciated it, so when cancer came, I spent so little time dealing with that added emotional weight or trying to “get right with god” (if one accepts that manner of judgement), that all I had to do was face down the physical battle in the immediate sense and “get busy living” as the phrase goes.
I could go on. I could tell you about my catholic upbringing, my deep consideration of morality and judgement, my intellectual research into various religious perspectives, my reading list of books both on theism and atheism and everything in between, and how after all was said and done, I became immovably comfortable with the reality that THIS is all there is. That we are the most indescribably fortunate products of immeasurable chance and circumstance…and how I have no words to describe how awesome that is. And then, how all that affects my approach to having a cancer diagnosis.
But I’ll leave it at that.
I am also a parent, and although a novel of decisions (some good, some bad) took place where my son ended up with his mother in North Carolina and I stayed back in Indiana, I still feel I’m a damn good one. I love my son to death and do everything I feel is pertinent to give him the best life I can while enabling him to become an individual of great character. I’m not sure what else to say about that.
I am also, as you might deduce, an “extremist”, which is such a poor and misleading term. “Extremism” is a concept based on standards, and so if we’re using dominant culture as the baseline, the middle point, then I am certainly an extremist. I am an admitted and accepted extremist because I find little of value in dominant culture and the life I choose to lead puts me at odds with its moral dictates, it’s economic structure, it’s forced passivity, and it’s drive for a sense of achievement that seems to level everything in it’s path – floral and fauna. I then find it imperative to speak out and live against this dominant culture of violence, instead of resorting to concessions, begging for change, and resting on hope. These actions, although tactically debatable, feel like soul killers. On my deathbed (not yet cancer!) I want to say I opted out of the social structure at every opportunity that mattered and made sense, and I want to know whenever I had the chance to speak up and act out for the most oppressed of our society, that I did. This might help explain the image of the Animal Liberation Front on the header of my blog. I also, for the same reasons, don’t pull punches. If I see absurdity, I call it out. Even at the expense of removing my foot from deep within my throat later, I err on the side of saying something rather than keeping the peace. In my years of varied experiences, I feel this is the best approach.
I know, all that sounds rather bombastic, maybe intense, maybe “extremist”. But rest assured, as central as these identities and perspectives are to my being, I am also a completely, absurd, ridiculous goober. My ultimate goal each day is to make people laugh, to be a good person, to know friends and strangers walked away from me thinking, “hey, that’s a pretty good guy right there.” I don’t always succeed. My social media filters are significantly more filled with holes than my face to face filters, and I’ve made enemies. In the end though, I want to be a good person. I want to use every experience I have to make the time we share more enjoyable between us, whether that is through my running, my writing, my parenting, my politics, my actions, my bad jokes, my struggling wit, my approach to cancer, my approach to life. This shit, all of it, all we see, is just too damn amazing, too damn awesome (I won’t say “too damn short”), too damn everything to waste on absurdities. We all need to lighten up, cut out the bullshit, and go out of life like running off a cliff screaming with passion. Whether anyone else feels the value in that, I don’t know, but that’s how I want to go…and that’s how I choose to live.
So there. Now you know A LITTLE more about me than what can fit on a couple pages of a popular running magazine. Maybe you’ll stop reading right here…that’s cool. I get it. No hard feelings. But if you do continue to read on and find value in following along, I hope we make a real connection and I hope we become friends, just remember, my filter is full of holes and my runs only go further and faster. I hope yours are the same.