I’m a runner. I run slowly, but it’s still running. Sometimes I run with Jimi the Wonder-Dood. Sometimes I run alone. I depends on the venue. Jimi’s not very good on the treadmill, and he’s not allowed on the high school running track.
Usually I run at night, but today I decided to run in the morning. The plan was to run on the high school track, so I snuck out the front door while Jimi gave me a look of reproach for ditching him. My neighborhood is having streets replaced, so it’s faster to walk to the track than drive (as we say, “you can’t get there from here…). I started my three running apps (they all do different things!) and headed for the stadium. Taking the “long way,” it’s a nice half-mile warmup, so by the time I got to the track, I was good and ready.
It was a beautiful morning. It was just a little cool, and the sun was shining. There were a few dark clouds, but they really didn’t look threatening. At the track already was a gentleman who I’ve shared the track with many times. I waved hello and we chatted briefly. I was happy – happy to be at the track, happy to be alive, happy it was Thursday. I was just happy.
As I began my laps, a young lady appeared. Unlike me, she’s a “fast” runner. I watched with mild envy as she sped by me. Each lap she would pause and stretch. I’d run by, and smile, but she never looked my way.
Self doubt began to creep in.
“She must be laughing at my idea of ‘running.'”
I imagined her critiquing everything from my stride to my wardrobe. I soon began to cringe when she lapped me. Another runner joined us, and shouted a cheery “good morning” as he ran by me the first time. I felt vindicated. Runners should back each other up. We should encourage each other. We shouldn’t “look down” on each other because one of us is bigger or slower…
Then it happened on lap 10… My left leg cramped up. I stopped, stretched, rubbed. I tried to run again, and there it was again. The “run” was over. I walked/limped the rest of the way around the track, and as I approached the gate, my nemesis passed me again. She turned to face me as she ran by and extended her hand to “high five” me.
I shouted, “Thank you!” I smiled broadly. The dark cloud that had descended suddenly lifted. I was bathed in sunbeams and a choir of angels appeared behind me and sang in beautiful chords (okay, that part didn’t happen).
I was reminded that assumptions are often (usually) wrong. I was reminded how good it feels to be acknowledged. I was reminded how significant a difference something as simple as a wave, a smile, or a high five can make for someone who is feeling down, and I resolved to reach out more often.
I’m not about to start hugging strangers on the street, but you may find me doling out high fives at the track on a regular basis. Jimi loves to give high fives, too. It’s his sign for “I love you.” It’s also his sign for “let’s play,” “I’m hungry,” “I’m really, really, sorry,” and “gotta poop.” High fives are useful when you’re a Dood.