On last Wednesday’s run, I saw a man walking toward me, up the very long hill that becomes nearly the end of my run on the way back. He had two white bands around his knees, they almost looked like gauze but weren’t. Honestly I don’t know what they were, but both knees were wrapped. He was walking but had clearly been running because he was soaked with sweat and as I passed him, I could hear his very heavy, labored breathing. He sounded so bad—and looked so bad—I wondered if he were having a heart attack and if I’d find him on the second half of my run.
I didn’t see him though, and gave him no more thought until Friday’s run, when I saw him again. Again both knees had the white wrappings and again he was walking, and just gasping for air. As I had on Wednesday and as I always do, I waved on my way past but got no return wave. I’m guessing he didn’t have any energy to spare.
I saw him again this morning –same exact story with the knees, the sweat and the breathing, and again no wave. No biggie, he was on the giant hill and that sucker can drain your will to live. But I also saw him on my way back and this time I got a hand flop in return. Progress!
I know it can be really intimidating for people to start running. We feel so self-conscious, like the entire world is looking and laughing at us. We think we look stupid, or slow or both and that other runners must be judging the snot out of us. So I'd been wondering if maybe he was thinking that way too.
But the thing is I don’t feel that way when I see people who are clearly new to running, or are slower than I am or just generally out of shape but are out there trying. I give a mental cheer, I want to high five them or somehow just let them know I admire them for giving it a try. So if I feel that way, why do I not ascribe similar motives to those are much better runners or athletes than I am?
And with that realization this morning, I’ve decided that exactly what I’m going to do. When a gazelle passes me, I’m going to believe he or she is cheering me on and giving me that mental high five.