Soul Food for Lunch

I am fortunate in that I am able to run during my mid day lunch break at work. This is something that I have been doing for probably 20 years if not more. It’s something that helps stabilize me and keeps me somewhat sane. It also really helps work productivity because it is a great way to not only blow off some stress, but also problem solve in a free form and endorphin induced state. When my run schedule gets interrupted, I become a little agitated and a lot anxious and uptight. It’s pretty easy to tell when I have been able to run – and when I haven’t.

Typically my runs involve nobody else but me and the road or trail. It may sound a little lonely to some, but I enjoy running alone. Sure, group running is also a lot of fun and I will run with company from time to time. But solo running is the couch session which enables me to reconcile anything that might be bothering me. And since I race solo, I consider solo training to be good mental preparation. But sometimes, I encounter someone out there on the road, and the brief meeting ends up being even more meaningful and beneficial for me than the run itself. I always measure the workout by equal parts experience and result. If I was particularly fast one day, but had a miserable mental run, was that a “good” day? Or a bad day? I need to have a good experience out there in order to call it a good day.

I have had three such encounters in the last two weeks. The first one was when I finally had the chance to meet “roller girl”. For about 5 years I have been seeing the same woman on roller blades skating around on many of the roads and paths where I run. Having never known her real name, I have had all sorts of names for her… roller girl, skater girl, wheels…. You get the picture. We are both always on the move and never offer anything more than a friendly smile and a half of a wave. Last week she was sitting at the same playground area eating her lunch where I was stretching and finishing my run. So I said hello and told her I wasn’t used to seeing her without skates. We chatted for all of about 5 minutes but we made an important connection. In those five minutes I learned that her daughter’s very good friend was battling her second bout of breast cancer, and her spirits were low. I offered a couple of cancer related websites, agencies, and resources for her to pass along. Cancer connections are always good. There is safety in numbers. Hopefully the next time I see her she will have good news. Oh and her name is Priscilla.

My next encounter came while I was running hill repeats up and down Adams Street near my office in Wilmington Delaware. Midway through my workout, I passed a man and woman who were walking the same hill. I thought they were simply walking down the hill but it turned out that they were also doing walking repeats so we crossed paths several times over the next 30 minutes or so. Each time we passed, the guy had an encouraging comment or a friendly smile to offer me. It was clear that he was enjoying his workout, and life for that matter.

Then just the other day I had another great meeting while I was doing one of my screwball workouts consisting of interval running with intermittent body weight resistance movements. I was doing Hindu pushups on top of a picnic table when two small dogs came over to keep me company. One of them actually attempted to jump up on the table to join me. Their owner, a gentleman who may have been in his late 60s or early 70s, wasn’t far behind. He walked over thinking he needed to stop his dogs from “bothering me”. It was too late, not only were they not bothering me, I had already made two friends. I asked if it was Ok to pick one of them up, and she took up residence right on my lap as if that’s what she wanted all along. So I played with my new canine friends, and chatted with their owner for ten minutes, if that. But it was enough to refuel my love of people … and of dogs.

The runs were good, but the experiences were great.

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