>We were driving through Boston over the weekend — right on that stretch of road by the river where there’s a paved trail, beautiful grass, and a great view of the city. There were also about a zillion walkers, runners, and bikers. We were stopped at a light and an older runner shuffled and dragged and gasped his way past us. He was tired, out of breath, and, well, not so graceful. Ha! I thought, Ha! At least I’m faster than that guy! Except that I accidentally said it out loud. Like, in front of other people. But thankfully only in front of my husband (who already knows I’m the tiniest bit crazy) and my daughter (who was sleeping). But still. Thinking crazy, selfish, overly competitive thoughts is one thing; Saying them is another.
Demetri, assuming I was talking to him, sort of paused, made a soft humming sound, and said, “Well . . .”
I whipped my head around from the window and the pitifully slow runner to look at the profile of my husband. My husband who was very intently looking at the traffic light. “WHAT?! I’m as slow as that 70 year-old guy? That one right there?” I pointed out the window. We both looked. Mr. 70-year-old-slow-runner-guy was now stopped in the grass bent over, one hand on his knees, one hand clutching his chest.
“Whoa. Is he ok?” Demetri asked*.
“I’m sure he’s fine. Stop avoiding the question — Am I as slow as that guy?” I demanded.
“Well, it’s hard for me to tell exactly. We’re in a car and everything . . .”
“We’re in a car THAT’S NOT MOVING! So . . . so . . . so you’re trying to tell me,” I slumped back into my seat, “that I am as slow as that guy.” And, a part of me knew it was true.
I know, at least on some level, that I am a slow runner. I know that some people can walk faster than I run. Some people can even hula-hoop while walking faster than I run. The Silver Sneakers, the over 70 running club at the Y, has a few members that can take me. But, the thing is, I don’t feel slow. When I run, I feel fast. Swift. Nimble. Dare I say, lithe (hi Lisa!). Even after someone passes me, blows by me, crushes me. As soon as they are out of sight (which usually happens pretty quickly) I am back to feeling like an Olympic runner prancing nimbly down the path. And, well, yes, pushing a stroller. But still.
The day after driving through Boston and recognizing myself (by force) in Mr. 70-year-old-slow-runner-guy, Demetri came running with me. This was only the 4th time he’s come. And I could tell my pace was painful for him. I encouraged him to run at his own pace and, finally, he agreed. My husband took off and left me and the stroller (with Zoey in it) to prance lithely through the dust behind him**. In no time at all he faded into the early morning green-black smudge of trail and trees far ahead of us.
Part of me, yes, was a little bitter that he has been running FOUR TIMES and already is much, much faster than I am. But most of me was happy that we were all out on the trail at the same time. I was just happy to be running on a summer morning on a shaded trail. I was happy to be the fastest and most graceful runner in sight. And happy that fast is a feeling, much like beautiful is, that can be kept in my head and in my heart.
* Why yes, Demetri is the more caring and kind spouse.
** Please note who has the stroller FOR THE ENTIRE RUN. I am also nice. And very, very modest.