Tomorrow morning at 8:30, I am running my first ever half marathon (my friend Cami puts on The Windhorse Half Marathon each year–read about it here). I’ve never run more than 11 miles, so this is a new adventure, one that I’ve been working up to for the past few months (though not really on purpose). Since January, I’ve logged nearly 700 running miles, and last Saturday I completed the Chuckanut Foot Race which is a little more than half of the run I’ll be doing tomorrow—the same basic route, only tomorrow I’ll have to run back.
My running buddy and friend April has a sticker on the back of her car that says Run Happy. I love this sticker because running makes me happy. Not that anyone who sees my Chuckanut Footrace race photo would know this fact. In fact, if I do a quick review of recent race photos, I don’t look happy at all. Not while I’m running. I look happy before and after, but the pictures of me actually running definitely paint a more dire picture. I look like I’m expecting the world to end. No one would have any idea that my mind has been occupying a very happy place as the miles unfurl beneath my winged feet.
A few months ago, an acquaintance saw me running at my usual morning running spot. I grunted in her general direction as I ran past, maybe managed to give her a little wave, and continued on my way, focused on the task at hand, i.e. running. When I saw her later in the week, she asked me if I’d been running under a little black cloud that morning because I seemed “dark” when she saw me. I thought about that comment for a moment. “Yeah, I guess,” I said, “some days I feel like the windshield, some days like the bug. Today, I was the bug.” I shrugged and forgot about our conversation. Until I saw her on the trail again a couple of weeks later—then I made a concerted effort to smile. I didn’t want her to think I ran under a dark cloud. I love running—it makes me happy even though it sometimes hurts.
One of the things I love about my favorite running trail is that for the most part, the regulars are a friendly bunch. Most of the folks I see regularly smile and wave. Some say good morning. I smile and wave back. I try to remember to smile and make eye contact when someone comes my way. One of the reasons I run the trail clockwise is because most people run counter clockwise—I can see more people this way, and fewer people run past me. I startle easily when other, faster, runners pass me from behind. I’ve run other trails, but have yet to encounter such a consistently cheerful bunch of morning exercisers.
Just this morning as I was walking around the lake (I couldn’t stay away—my morning routine has become, well, my morning routine. I didn’t run though—being in taper mode—I just walked one time around), one of the regulars stopped me to tell me how she had noticed how much weight I’d lost in the past few months. Wow. I was touched, amazed actually, that she would reach out like that, but that’s what running has become for me—connection: with strangers, with friendly faces, with a community.
Running makes me happy—happy enough that I’m going to lace up my shoes and run 13.1 miles tomorrow.