by Dante Zappala

The milkshakes at the Fairlane Grill are too good to pass on. Yet, on most visits, when my wife and I steal some time for a late weekday breakfast, I manage to refrain.

In the thick of heavy distance training, where I might be running 12 miles a day, the 400 or more empty calories seem like a just reward. But the just rewards are everywhere, so I usually cut myself off after eating my wife’s home fries on top of my own.

My marathon training has centered on staying true to a long-term goal, despite the pushes and pulls to deviate. Most days the inspiration to run is not what draws me out, but the knowledge that it is a must if I want to perform well.

I was invited into the Elite Masters field at the New York City Marathon. Throughout the summer, I’ve felt confident that I can compete at that level. I’m arguably in the best shape of my life just as I’ve reached a new age group. For runners who are driven by competition, that kind of timing is pure gold.

My conviction came when looking at Masters results at Boston and NYC and realizing that if I can race to my potential, I could place somewhere in the top 15 at either of the races.

But my conviction needs fuel. It is built by doing the workouts and maintaining the volume. Naturally then, when I got hurt and couldn’t train, my faith shattered like glass. I found myself back at the Fairlane, this time with my best friend, drinking a coffee milkshake and saying I never deserved the entry into the NYC Marathon to begin with.

How quickly we crumble. I had good company, at least. All of my liberal friends had their collective jaws drop when they learned the Pope met with Kim Davis. In his brief tenure, accentuated by his words and actions while in the United States, they’d shed their dismay about the Catholic Church and embraced Francis as an agent of change. How quickly they turned when they learned he’d met with and seemingly endorsed a person who personifies ignorance and injustice.

This is, interestingly enough, the premise under which right-wing theology falters. Any alternative to their teachings is treated like a declaration of war, one that must be fought for their very survival.

This is curious when you consider we’re not talking about a physical entity that can be captured in an assault. We’re talking about the belief of an individual that lives within. If that personal belief could be so easily compromised by something as innocuous as any two adults who love each other having the right to marry, perhaps the pillar really wasn’t that strong to begin with.

And so, as the Left bitterly abandoned its love affair with Francis, I disavowed myself over a creamy milkshake. The irony may be that the truth is rarely what we believe in the moment. I read a compelling article that the Pope may have been set up by some of the more conservative players in the Vatican. The act was meant to spoil the growing feeling on the Left that Francis was one of their own. This makes sense. If anyone knows how easily conviction can falter, it would be the clergy.

As my injury persists, I’ve come to terms with the likely possibility that I’m out of New York. After putting in epic sessions on the elliptical and running in the pool, desperately trying to maintain fitness, I’ve realized that I’m only delaying recovery. The only way to heal is to see that there will be no miracle that makes this go away overnight. I need to stop believing.

The NYC marathon turned out to be something of a false idol. Now, I’ve got Boston in April to look towards.

And I’m absolutely certain of what I can do there.