"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." ~ Emily DickinsonBy now many of you know I am a marathoner. It's something I am proud of as part of my recovery journey. For me, running and training for a goal race is fun and I will continue this as long as it remains enjoyable and as long as my arms and legs remain attached to the rest of my body.
So far, so good.
In February of 2017, I wrote about The Joy Trail. Today I wish to share my story of a joy trail found.
We're in between official training from our last marathon to the next. For most of us who run together our marathon training will resume in late June and finish anywhere from October through December depending on the race chosen. I selected the Memphis St. Jude marathon last year, an early December date involving a long, grueling 5 months of training that I believe left many of us overtrained, but that's not important - again, as I will from time time, I digress. This year wifey and I have chosen a race midway through the summer/fall marathon season, the November 4 Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. It will be fun and certainly less hilly than the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon I completed in May!
During this down time some of us continue to run, less often for most of us, less miles and certainly the runs are done less vigorously. We do this because it is fun for us and quite frankly for me at least, I don't want to show up at the marathon training kickoff meeting looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and I surely don't want my body to forget how to run long distances.
I can't imagine starting the marathon training journey all over again, wondering if I'm up for a long Saturday morning run. Now THAT would NOT be fun!
Running alone is okay but running with people who I've come to know and love through this marathon training thing is the best. Our training team has gotten through a lot and supported each other in victories and defeats, tears and jubilations. We are a tight-knit group of very slow but determined runners. Completing 26.2 miles has that effect on people.
A few weeks ago I began to send emails out to my fellow Lanterne Rouge teammates to schedule Saturday morning runs - if you're not a fan of cycling and don't know what Lanterne Rouge means Google it if you want a chuckle. This is totally out of my comfort zone but as with most everything I have done as part of my journey to burst through my inhibitions and past tendencies, these emails have been a blast. Plus, I've been able to do these Saturday runs with other crazy marathoners!
These are smaller group runs since many of our teammates stay close to home for their maintenance runs, don't necessarily want to start early in the morning as we do when in full-bore training, and many are on vacation.
On a recent 6 miler on Memorial Day morning I and a fellow Lanterne Rouger were completing mile 4 of a 6 mile loop when we approached a group of three walkers on the trail. As I do on these trails I made eye contact with one of the three - the youngest in this case - and said hello. My running partner and I were at that very moment signaled by our Garmin watches to begin a one-minute walk interval which we do when training, so we of course began talking to the three - or one of the three to be more precise.
I quickly ascertained the younger man was of Middle Eastern descent and asked the terribly politically incorrect question because that's who I am:
"Where are you from?"
"Iran," he answered. "These are my parents. They just came from Iran to visit me."
"Wow," I said. "Welcome."
"Yes, welcome," said my running partner.
Both of our messages were quickly translated from son to mother and father. Broad smiles followed.
And this would be the extent of our contact with three people from the other side of the world, from totally distinct cultures and ideologies. Our Garmins were chirping at us to resume running.
We explained the lunacy of interval training and bid a fond goodbye to our new-found friends - or so we thought.
As the two of us transitioned to running, we were astonished to see mother and son following stride for stride. We talked about the world, about how David, the son, had lived in numerous countries and states and cities and found our little Midwestern city his favorite. As if we were on a satellite feed we would say something to mom, would wait for David to translate to Farsi and then, receive her response translated to English. These two actually pushed us beyond our planned pace but that was just fine, The magic of this moment surpassed any maintenance training goals we might have had for that day.
At mile 6 we explained we needed to stop, parted company and turned to walk the half-mile to our cars. As we approached the parking lot we passed dad who flashed us a huge smile, something everybody everywhere does in the same way.
We left the park that day buoyed by this magical training run. I added this to the many "reasons why I run" and we agreed, if the world only operated the way this encounter of cultures transpired over the mile and half at this little park in St. Louis Missouri, we would all be better for it.
Privately, I also truly believe both of us were grateful to have allowed this miracle mile and one-half to transpire. On that day we ignored our shared tendency to fixate on the task at hand (training) and let go to let the moment happen. Miracles are happening all around us. They're happening at our workplace, the grocery, the cafe, at home - everywhere.
Take the time, the next time a miracle approaches, or you literally run into it, to recognize it, stop what you're doing and embrace the opportunity.
It' may only be less than a mile and a half out of your way.
"If you smile at me I will understand, 'cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language." ~ Wooden Ships, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Paul Kantner