Monday, May 7, 2012

Do the Wave

During a long run, you have plenty of time to think.
About how far you've come.
How far you have left. 
About what you can achieve.
And about those frightful "obstacles" ahead.
In terms of miles on your feet....loops completed....races run....goals conquered....hills...traffic....wind...the sun in your face.
About your feet.  How they propel you forward most days without complaint.  About your it works as a powerhouse to get you up those hills and how damn good it's going to look in spandex if you would only stop sitting on it and eating that extra cookie :-)
About your upcoming season.  Where you want to run, what your "A" race is, your goal for your next run and how you're gonna kick it's behind because, well, after that last hill you just ran up, anythings possible.
About your family, friends, job, and "outside of running" life. The report that's due on Tuesday.  The car payment that needs to be made.  The deck that needs painting.  The chicken defrosting in the fridge, waiting to be turned into something delicious with the random contents of your fridge...oh right, and the groceries that need to be bought.
And somehow, in that 90 minutes of thought....your legs turning....your mind spinning....your tunes playing-safe in your own little zen world....
You see another one.  One of those crazy runners who swear up and down that a 10, 15, 20 miler is a good way to spend a Sunday morning instead of watching cartoons or stuffing their faces with pancakes (c'mon, we'll do that when we get home, after sitting in a freezing cold bathtub).  Someone who, like you, is ticking off the miles and measuring how far they have left in their journey to the next great thing that someone else would say is impossible.  That's a word neither one of us know. 
And in silent recognition, we look each other in the eye and lift a hand in friendly sentiment.  A small smile crosses our faces.  And we move on.
A simple wave on some levels.  But a true understanding of the beauty of what we do and how lucky we are to be able to breath in the fresh air, work our lungs, heart and legs, and to embrace the true spirit of what makes running so wonderful-it is, all at once, an individual and community pursuit.
That's what I remember when I have a bad run.  When it's not going the way I had hoped.  Over the years of living in a small neighborhood, I have come to make several running "wave friends".  Tri-guy.  Speedy sister.  Shuffling old man.  Sweatpants Sue. Pink compression tights girl (I resonate with her!).
Do I actually know these people?  Nope, not at all.  We see each other on a weekly or monthly basis, in different loops, at different points in our run.  I have no idea if they are triathletes (well, except for the guy that's always decked out in IMLP gear.  I suspect he is, lol), marathoners, or recreational joggers.  But I do know that they love what they do.  And that the feel of the sun on their face, the lactic acid in their legs and the final sprint to the finish at the end of a long run brings them the same satisfaction that I have.
Yesterday, I saw a few of these friends.  And then, at mile 9.5, when I wanted to stop more than anything in the world, I looked over to the left as I crossed my last intersection and saw my favorite one.
It wasn't sweatpants Sue.
It was my real best friend-the man I married.  Finishing up his last half mile, the same expression on his face.  He waved.  And I finished that last half mile strong, picked up the pace and met up with him, as we ran to his finish.  Then, hand in hand, with the exhaustion of a hard, honest effort, we walked home smiling, together.
That's what it's all about, folks.