Sometimes when I run, I am reminded of what a gift it is to be able to do so. I've had two such reminders recently that I wanted to share.
The first was when I ran by a boy in a wheelchair. He'd steered his motorized wheelchair out to get the mail from his mailbox, and my route took me right past him on the sidewalk. I felt bad running past him, doing something he so clearly could not. I avoided his eyes, looking down as I passed by. But I swear I could feel him watch me go, could feel the longing in his eyes burning into my back. Suddenly the pain in my legs felt like a gift, the burning in my chest a blessing. I pumped my legs harder, and pushed myself further. Somehow, in that moment, I wasn't just running for me-- I was running for him too. I was so aware-- painfully so-- that I could do something so amazing, that it was wrong to take it for granted. Or to say I don't want to go. Or yes, complain about going.
A few days later I ran by an older gentleman in his yard. He hollered at me as I passed, waving his arm at me so that I shut off my iPod and looked up at him, slowing my pace. With a grin, he said, "You're going to get a speeding ticket, going that fast." We both knew he was lying, but I went along with it, smiling back as I started to pick up my pace and resume my run. I hadn't yet turned my music back on as I overheard him mumble to himself, "I can barely cross the street." I thought about that man as I ran ahead, focusing again-- anew-- on what I could do. To him I probably did look like I was going fast. I looked over my shoulder to see him shuffling up his driveway, his walk out to his mailbox probably the extent of his physical activity for the day.
I'm not sure why I shared this here. I guess because it's been on my mind a lot-- this ability, this gift, of running. And how I don't know from day to day when I might not be able to anymore. And how amazing it is that I can at all. That I get to go run, to pull on my tennis shoes, pop in my earbuds, point my nose towards the horizon and move my legs. Not fast enough to get a speeding ticket, mind you. But faster than many. And so, I run for me, but I also run for them, my mind focusing on the blessing instead of the exertion, the gift instead of the pain.