This morning, I went out for a run – a long run. I’ve officially begun training for a full marathon this November. I set out to run 8 miles this morning. The park where I run is a one mile loop – so that would be 8 times around. I don’t mind – I actually enjoy checking off each go-round in my head. It helps break down the distance into manageable increments. I’ll be sure to remind myself of this, when I’m out there running 18 loops. Can’t wait.
Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this particular story about this particular run on this particular day is because it was different. Even before I started out, it felt different. I can’t explain why it felt that way, but I can now explain why it was.
I had planned on leaving the house at 7:30am – that did not happen. After a series of little events, including a late wake-up, some ants in the kitchen, and a nervous stomach, I finally set out around 8:30. Not too shabby – I’d still have most of my day post-run to do other stuff.
I put on this Enya Pandora station I just made the other day – it’s the perfect running music, I must say. I feel inspired and at one with the park while I’m running (or something like that). I walked the half a mile over to the park, and I started my 8 mile journey. I was about to finish 2 miles, when a crew of county landscapers pulled up near the end/beginning of the loop. They had just started setting up as I was about to run by. One older man in particular caught my attention, and as I got closer, he smiled, and said “good morning” and I realized he reminded me a lot of my dad. So I smiled back, and continued on, thinking about my dad and the nice man who just happened to be there to brighten up my run as I came by.
On the next two loops, I didn’t see the man at all – I assume he was working. Nearing the end of loop 5, I saw him again, leaning against his truck and smiling broadly as I approached.
“Thats Four!” he said as I passed by, holding up four fingers (remember, they didn’t arrive until the end of loop 2 for me). I smiled back, held up two fingers, and replied “Two more to go!” He laughed and so did I. The run was getting harder, as it had been a while since I ran some real distance, so that was just what I needed to keep going strong.
Going strong was really starting to get old though, especially when about a quarter mile in to loop 6, a very young and very fit young lady wearing only a sports bra passed me at a very fast pace. I was getting slower, and this did not help. I started feeling a little down, when I came up behind a man and his son. They were talking about walking the loop, and at the exact moment I passed by, the man said, “sometimes, you just gotta push through.”
Was he talking to me? No. But I heard it, and it meant something to me. I felt my strength coming back, and I continued on, with a new found desire to keep on keepin’ on.
I soon came around the last turn of loop 6, to where the men were working again. I saw the man from before, still leaning against his truck, and again smiling as I approached.
“One more!!” he exclaimed.
I smiled back, and said, “I’m almost done – sometimes you just gotta push through!” He laughed and so did I.
Then, I cried. I imagined my own dad cheering me. I wondered if this was somehow my dad reminding me that he isn’t far, and he is proud of me. I believed that it was. And it kept me going.
With these thoughts in mind, I ran the loop for the last time. I was getting very, very thirsty. I started to wish I had drank more water before I left. I started to wish I had driven my car instead of walked to the park so I could have a drink as soon as I was done. I started fantasizing about the ice cold water I had purposely put in the fridge for me to enjoy when I returned home after the run.
As I came around the last turn for the last time, I saw the man again, and I noticed him open the door of his truck, and appear to be looking for something. I was bummed – I hoped that he was done by the time I passed, so we could have one last exchange before I retired from the park for the day.
I ran closer and closer, and I was just about to pass the man, when he turned around, and handed me an ice cold water that he had in his truck.
I stopped. “For me?” I beamed. He nodded. I took the ice cold water, just like the one I had been fantasizing about, and I shook his hand.
“Thank you for cheering me on,” I said. “It really helped.”
“You did it!” he exclaimed.
“Yep, 8 miles!” I told him.
And just like that, our purpose in each others’ lives had been served. I will never know what my purpose in his life was. Maybe I reminded him of someone he lost. Maybe he really just wanted to get rid of the extra water. Maybe he won’t forget it, either.
The universe works in strange ways. I was reminded today that you get what you give. I’m truly sorry that I had forgotten that to begin with.