I have always been fairly athletic, and I enjoy playing a good game that gets my blood pumping. But I loathe exercise. I’ll run all day long if I’m on a court or a playing field, but ask me to run to get or stay in shape and I’ll kindly decline. I’ve tried several times in my life to become a runner, hoping to experience that “runner’s high” that I’ve heard so much about. In fact, when the running craze first hit the East Coast in the early ’70’s, I was among the first to buy a pair of bright blue Nike’s with the yellow swoosh on the side and take to the roads. I lasted about three weeks before pain and boredom overcame me. Two to three weeks seemed to be my limit every time I tried to get on the running bandwagon.
Then early this summer my daughter called and told me she had started the “Couch to 5k” program, and that I should try it too. I was skeptical, but she was persistent. “It’ll be fun,” she said. “Right,” I replied. “Like pulling fingernails is fun.” Eventually, she wore me down and I decided I’d give it a try. “C25k” (as we in the know call it) is an interval training program that starts off with lots of walking and a little running. By the end of nine weeks, you’re not walking at all, and you’re running the full 3+ miles.
I’m proud to say that I have stuck with the program and am now a “C25k” graduate, and that I’ve kept up my running since completing the program. My daughter and I have started looking for a 5K race we can enter together to celebrate our accomplishment.
But the truth is that I still find running really boring. I run a 3 mile loop around town that keeps me mostly on residential streets and a couple of busier roads. I was told that running on pavement is easier on your joints and muscles than running on the concrete sidewalks. So, when it’s not too narrow or busy, I opt to run in the road (always facing oncoming traffic as I was taught in grade school). I watch the oncoming cars carefully, to be sure that they see me and keep a safe distance. When a car gives me a wide berth, I usually give a little wave to acknowledge the driver’s awareness and kindness.
Lately, I’ve developed this little interchange between drivers and me into a kind of spiritual practice. For the past several runs, I’ve begun to say a small prayer or blessing for each passing motorist. As I wave, I say “May you know peace” or “Know that you’re loved.” I wish health, happiness, peace, love, passion, success, and joy to the occupants of the cars that pass me by. For those drivers who either aren’t watching or don’t care to give me some space, I pray for their attentiveness, their alertness, and their foresight as I hop up onto the curb.
In offering these small blessings to strangers who pass me by, I find that I, too, am blessed. As I pray for these things for others, I am reminded of the joy, peace, love, passion and successes I find in my own life. I experience the blessings of good health, of the air that I breathe in, of the incredible machine my body is. I notice the gifts of the sky, the trees, the wind and the sun.
May you know peace today. May you know that you are loved. May you feel joy. And may you find, in some small way, the opportunity to wish that for others as you go about your day.