Runners’ Reality vs. The Rest of the World’s Reality

Five miles before breakfast. I’m running hard but feeling good. Feeling great, actually. The sun is just coming up over the trees. The birds in the surrounding forests and fields are cheering for me. I’m on the home stretch, gaining speed. Life is beautiful. The world is bright.

I pass a woman collecting her morning paper from the end of her driveway… a crew of hard-hatted construction workers… a smart-suited businessman driving up to Cleveland for an early-morning business meeting… I imagine the things that these others must be saying to themselves as they watch me run by:

“Good for him! It’s nice to see someone getting after it like that.”

“What a vivid picture of health that man is!”

“Gosh! I so admire his self-discipline — running at this early hour.”

“I wish that was me, out for a nice brisk run this morning.”

Traffic is light, so most cars can provide me with a wide berth. And when they do, I lift my hand in a salute of gratitude. (This is the standard code of civility for us early-morning folk). In one spot, however — along a two-lane country road — the shoulder is narrow enough, the slope of the hill is steep enough, and the cross-traffic is close enough that the directly-oncoming vehicle must brake to a nearly-complete stop in order to avoid endangering me. He’s an older gentleman with wavy grayish-brown hair. The cross-traffic and I reach him at the same time, and I lift my hand in the salute-of-gratitude while mouthing the words, “Thank you.”

The gentleman-driver cocks his head slightly to the right as we make eye contact. He pauses for a moment, and I wonder if he’s going to roll down the window and ask how much distance I’ve covered this fine morning. Instead, he shrugs his shoulders and casually extends the middle finger of his right hand before punching the accelerator and speeding past me — eager to make up for lost time.

I smile broadly in response and press on towards the end of my run. Because I’m on the home stretch,¬†gaining speed. Life is beautiful. The world is bright. And I’m at peace with my fellow man.

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