About 11 years ago, just after the birth of my second child, I started running. Don’t get the wrong idea! I’m not an athlete. But at the time, I was desperate to shed about 50 pounds. I started with step aerobics, graduated to power walking, then running. I began to love the sensations…my feet crunching the gravel on the shoulder of the road or swishing over the grass, the sounds of my own breathy exertion, the birds chirping, lawn mowers buzzing. Through the spring, summer, and fall, I loved running in the mornings when it was cool and bright and the day was speeding up, and I loved running in the warm glow of evening, when everything was slowing down. After awhile, I didn’t even mind running in the rain.
And just like truckers, full-size van owners, Harley-Davidson motorcyclists, and firemen, my hobby had admitted me to an exclusive club and made me recognizable to others of the same stripe…people that run for fun.
Not all runners are solitary, like me. Some meet in large groups on early Sunday mornings, some run in pairs with a dog on a leash. I like neither of those conditions because a) I would have to keep up with someone, or b) someone would have to keep up with me. (The more likely scenario is ‘a’, by the way.)
Through the years, running has revealed a few of my strange quirks, and being a person who loves to share, I’ve listed them below.
- Pet Etiquette. I know this will be an unpopular statement, but please don’t expect me to love your dog, especially if he’s sitting untied in your yard. For all I know, he’s just waiting to eat another little dog or chase a hapless runner like me out into oncoming traffic. (It has actually happened to me, believe it or not.) Same thing happens when you take your dog for a walk while unleashed (you anarchist…that’s against the city by-law.) I know, you want everyone to see how well behaved Mr. Patches is, and how he’s under your total control. Then you grin and call out, “Oh don’t worry, he won’t hurt you…” I know he’s probably a perfect dog, but for my sake, could you keep him tied up?
- Keeping up with the Joneses. I must confess, when I meet a runner who is obviously a) younger, b) faster, c) in much better shape with tighter thighs; I try to run faster and pretend it’s not killing me until they’re out of sight. The ‘Speedos’ (as I call them) are very genial as they disappear through a cloud of dust and give me a passing, “beep, beep!” I also try to speed up when I pass couples strolling arm-in-arm or little old ladies stooping to feed the Canada Geese (while standing under the “Do not feed the birds” sign. Told you…total anarchy in this town.) My positive-thinking friends say the only person I’m competing with is me, but I don’t seem to be winning.
- Positive Self-Talk. Sometimes I pray or think out loud while I’m running. Hey, I’m not crazy! I know the guy taking a cigarette break on the steps of the apartment building on the left thinks I’m talking to myself, but it’s not true. So if you see me do that, just assume I’m praying for you and be grateful.
- Ephemeral Epiphanies. While I lumber along with my heart bursting out of my chest, I get the most amazing, brilliant ideas for paintings, or stories to sell to magazines. But not only that—I receive revelations! The mysteries of the universe are opened when all that oxygen gets to my brain, and I feel like I could accomplish anything. Who needs narcotics or hallucinogens when you can be out of breath? Then, poof! As soon as I get home, they fizzle away and I can’t remember anything. I’m like Cinderella after the ball, sitting in the middle of the road on a cracked pumpkin. If I carried a voice recorder, maybe I could give Einstein a run for his money.
- Illusions of Grandeur. I’ve always wanted to participate in a 5 or 10 km run, but I’ve never done it. I train all spring and summer, then lose my nerve the week before a fall event. I’m afraid of coming dead last, you see. Will everyone have left by the time I get to the finish line? Or will one or two bored judges stay behind to welcome me? Which brings me to my last thought.
- Am I alone in the universe? On an evening jog last week, I pushed myself a little farther than usual, even though I was desperate to stop. During that combination of fatigue and oxygen-rich inspiration, I started wondering about what it means to struggle through the difficulties of life. Because of scriptures like Hebrews 12:1 (“…Therefore, because we labor before a cloud of heavenly witnesses…”) Christians like me imagine that Jesus and our friends who have gone before us are waiting and cheering us on at the finish line, encouraging us to persevere, to not give up in the middle of trials. I suddenly pictured him running with me, and felt the thrill of an epiphany. I realized he’s running alongside me, sharing the cool morning air, savoring the smell of the wild roses and the lilac trees, smiling at the kids playing street hockey, wondering if it’s going to rain before we get home. He’s breathing hard, too, but he’s telling me, “come on, we can make it one more block.”
As I ran, I remembered all the heartbreaking moments of my life when He was there, making me strong, giving me a reason to get up in the morning, helping me to do the right thing, helping me to say “I’m sorry” when I didn’t. Though I’m sure Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line, He’s also running with us now, and that’s an epiphany I’m glad I didn’t forget when I got home.