This is that utterly perfect time of year to be a runner. In my mind, any way. Temperatures are cool. Sunlight lingers long enough to get in a few miles after work. A lot more people are out and about. And of course, there’s that little matter of changes in color.
Tonight I had one of those perfect fall runs.
Thanks to the crisp air, there was less stress on my body and I felt like my little motor could chug along with ease. My iPod shuffled to Whitney Houston singing some gospel (“I Love The Lord” gets me every time) . The light was beautiful. And I felt good. A dog walker even remarked to me as she approached, “You sure look happy.”
And I was.
I’m over 40 and I’m not a natural runner. I’m not even a good one. But I’m keenly aware that I’m blessed with a body that affords me the opportunity to do the best I can. And I love to work hard.
The other morning I had breakfast with another lifelong friend and mother of four. As we caught each other up on the goings-on with our children, she described with amusement her youngest child’s participation on the cross-country team. “Bless her heart, she’s not very good,” she said with a chuckle. “But she gets out there and works hard. That’s really all that matters.” She went on to say that her daughter doesn’t mind that she’s not a natural. She just likes putting in the effort and being a part of the team. Then came the funniest line of all: “But I told her that she plays a very important role at these meets. Without her crossing the finish line, organizers wouldn’t know when to start the next event.”
I laughed until I cried. I’ve decided to apply that outlook to my own racing efforts. Without my participation, the top finishers wouldn’t realize just how fast they really are.
Humor aside, I’ve been marveling at my friend ever since. This goes so fabulously against the grain of our society’s expectations of success in athletics — especially the expectations for children. Don’t get me wrong: my friend’s children are all extremely successful in so many areas — more so than most kids, in fact. But my friend’s approach when they excel is the same as when they lag: honesty and reality. When they do well, she calls it what it is, without hyperbole or embellishment. When they don’t, well, same deal. But either way, it always boils down to this: “They work hard. That’s really all that matters.”
And as a result, her kids sure look happy.