But, when I wrote it, I never thought I'd be on the other side of that coin.
So to my 50,000 close friends who are running a marathon this Sunday... If you see some guy on the side of the road who isn't exactly cheering, he might be trying to share your joy, or your pain.
I can always look at the photo to my left and remember that my goal in the 2000 New York City Marathon was to 1) finish and be able to hold my six month old babies and 2) maybe break five hours. There was not so much training that summer. My official time was 4:59:56.
Also, and more importantly, the next time you go for a run, any run, or bend down and tie your shoe, or see a pretty tree, or take a breath, appreciate that moment. Because, and I don't want to freak you out, but you never know when you walk into your doctor's office with a little problem and go home in a wheelchair 135 days later.
First Published in "Around the Park" February 2009, the publication of the Prospect Park Track Club
"Running is my meditation, mind flush, cosmic telephone, mood elevator, and spiritual communion,” Lorraine Miller.
That was the Runner’s World Quote of the Day on January 16, 2009
Cosmic Telephone… That got me thinking.
A few springs ago, I was on my way to Prospect Park to run. As I passed the nursing home by Grand Army Plaza, I heard a small voice. There was a really old woman (she was in her nineties) in a wheelchair. She wanted to talk to me. She told me how much she used to enjoy being out in nature, running, swimming, riding bikes and horses. I sat down. She told me about the Grand Canyon before there were cars there. She talked about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and how she used to play with them.
Then she asked me to do her a favor. She could no longer make it to the Park. She wanted me to share my experience with her. She did not want me to come back and tell her what I saw; she wanted me to think of her… think for her… think with her. She wanted me to send my experience to her… to share the moment with her. (I did not think she was crazy, people do that all the time on Star Trek.)
So I ran a loop, I ran around the lake then I ran out to the pier in Coney Island and back. Physically, it was a great run. But it was more than that. I paid special attention to the blueness of the lake and the sky. I remember watching a hawk circle its prey. I noticed that there were two distinct swan families living in the lake. I noticed that the sound of children play is the same on all languages. I even remember that the fishermen in Coney Island catch the bait they use to catch fish and that that whole combination of stuff really stinks. I also noticed that the Twin Towers were no longer visible from the end of the pier. I appreciated every moment of this run. I guess I could say, “I was in the moment.”
I never met that women again but I thought of her, confined to her chair but enjoying the world through my eyes.
Most days I walk my kids to school with the same family. Ricardo is a regular runner. One day last week he was limping. He told me he had sprained his ankle. He also had the flu and a giant pile of work to do. He was not going to get to run for a while. On the walk back from school I told him about the old lady asking me to share my run with her. I told him that in about an hour I would be doing a loop of the frozen lake. If he were to open his mind I would share my run with him.
The next day he told me that he noticed the time while he was sneezing. He knew that at that point in time I was running around the lake. For a moment he thought about how beautiful the Park must be. He said he knew the lake must be frozen and he thought about the ducks and swans walking on the ice. He was able to leave the place he was in, the sneezing, coughing, swollen ankle, too much workplace and just for a moment be in the Park.
I think that the old lady was not really asking me to do her a favor; she was doing me a service. She reminded me that when I am in the place that I really want to be I should appreciate it. Years later, I reminded Ricardo that no matter how bad your day is, your favorite place is still there, waiting for you.
Now close your eyes and think of you favorite place. It is still there.