It’s funny how we as individuals rarely notice the impact we make on people around us. When I run, I am usually so inside my own head, that I don’t realize that other people are paying attention. Part of this is self-defense, because if I can ignore the indignity of noticing my fat girl jiggly bits while running, I can fool myself into thinking that others aren’t looking at them either. Plus, randomly breaking out into Lady Gaga lyrics while panting in rhythm to the whap whap of Asics on asphalt is only possible when motivation becomes more important than esthetics.
Amazingly, I can even pretend that I’m barely a blip on the radar when I wave as I pass the guy who waters his lawn by hand every evening, or smile at the middle school kids coasting downhill on their 10-speed bikes. Those miles, brief as they are, belong to me and my addiction to endorphins. If somebody else is out there indulging in their own personal pattern, good for them.
While I’m gasping for breath, red-faced, sweat pouring down my back, in the 90 degree heat as I run up that damn steep as hell hill one more time, I rarely wonder whether any of my neighbors are taking notice. Sure, there might be someone worried that this fat, middle-aged lady might actually be having a stroke, but I doubt they’ve punched 9-1 into their cell phone. After all, I may look rough, but I’m still upright; and as long as I don’t stop, I must be OK. At least that’s my mantra most days.
But as the saying goes – a butterfly flaps its wings and starts a hurricane on the other side of the world. Apparently those random strangers are paying attention. Coming back up the last hill to my street the other night, I passed a house where a girl, maybe 11, plays. Each evening, she waves as I approach and I wave back and I assume she forgets about me as soon as I round the corner. I was wrong.
Earlier this week, we exchanged our ritual wave as I passed her house on my outbound loop. Twenty five minutes later when I come back around, I see another runner coming my direction as I start heading back up that last little hill. She’s running with a natural grace that I envy – head held high, shoulders down, apparently effortless – and I wish I was twenty again because then I would have a shot at actually being good at this running thing.
I drew abreast of her long about the middle of the block. She stopped unexpectedly and threw her arms up in an exuberant victory V, calling to me “I did it! I ran to the front of the neighborhood and back. When I grow up, I’m going to be a runner too!” It was the little girl who waves from her yard. I smiled and gave her a double thumbs up as I passed.