For The Memories: Old and New, by Alex Puhl

Have you ever stopped to think about how inconsistently our brains catalog our memories?

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what we remember versus what we forget. You remember something your Mother told you 20 years ago with resounding clarity, but forget what you had for dinner last night. You still remember that there are 206 bones in the human body, but you awkwardly forget the name of your work partner’s spouse at a crucial moment.

Some memories are crisp and vivid, like the first time you felt those love butterflies twisting away at your insides. Some are covered in a vestigial fog, distorted over time like Vaseline smeared on your brain’s camera lens. Even stranger are the memories we’ve forgotten completely.

Statistically speaking, we forget substantially more than we actually remember.

Which is why we should count ourselves lucky when we befriend someone utterly unforgettable. Adam was one of these special, once-in-a-lifetime friends; a brother from another mother. When Adam passed away, as part of processing my grief, I wrote down all of the fond memories I could remember. It took me hours and I still add to it when new memories pop-in. It’s my way of trying to focus on the positive after a shattering experience (If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot). As I re-read the list, I was amazed (but not remotely surprised) to see how heavily Adam’s friendship has influenced who I am today. And just how many discrete memories I have from our time together.

If memories are additive, bolstering us brick by brick, I’ve got a solid layer dedicated to Adam.

I met Adam in 1994 and he was one of the first people I remember meeting in junior high. He approached me in 7th grade Exploratory class and we immediately clicked. He introduced me to computers and technology, so we could stay in touch using American Online (this was before cell phones and text messaging). His passion for philosophy and history was infectious; many of the books I’ve read and podcasts I obsessively talk about were Adam’s suggestions. He was a brilliant storyteller; captivating the people around him with an amusing tale or thought-provoking observation.

Adam was a magnet for high-quality people and he introduced me to many over the course of our friendship. We had a preposterously elaborate handshake we executed whenever we met up. It started out as a joke, making fun of fad greetings, but we never forgot it, even after 20+ years. Fun fact: Adam also taught me how to bench press.

But that’s only part of why I’m running.

We know memories are ephemeral, no matter how vibrant; they dissipate if they’re not shared. My primary motivator for running is to immerse myself with Adam’s family, friends and, frankly, complete strangers, in order to share stories of Adam and reinforce the ones we have.

It’s crucial that we embrace Adam’s virtues of brotherhood, honor, charity, education, the pursuit of knowledge and goodness towards our fellow people. Running this race is a small act I can take to help ensure Adam Ward’s worthy legacy continues to resonate and affect lives for the better.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

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