Saturday, July 23, 2016

Running to kick the habit

July marked an anniversary for myself and a neighbor down the street, Christy. I hadn’t seen Christy since her 1-year anniversary last July until just a week ago which coincidentally marked her 2nd year anniversary.

“Has it really been a year?” I thought? The last year crawled at a snail’s pace for me. Yet looking back it feels like yesterday.

In contrast to my melancholy morning attitude my neighbor was ecstatic!

Most week days that I run in the morning I robotically trot down the street, make a left, then a right. A half mile away – my eyes and mind still wiping the sleep away – I pass a little corner house with a table and two chairs out front. Just under 2 years ago as I passed this little corner house I notice in the periphery of my vision a woman sitting with a man waving to me. I flick my hand in response and continue on.
Our neighborhood...not quite a Mr. Roger's type neighborhood.
But, we are trying to change the neighborhood dynamic
through our own converted bus bench in our shady front yard.
“God bless you, and thank you!” She yells after me.

I continue running…Is she shouting at me I wonder? Is she crazy? Should I stop or keep going?

“Bless you!” She yells louder.

I pause my advance down the street and half turn in her direction. She skips toward the street from her patio chair.

“Today marks 1 month.” She proudly exclaims. I look in puzzlement. “I have seen you run by most mornings past my house as I sip my coffee and smoke a cigarette. The good Lord provided me with your daily inspiration of health and activity to help me stop smoking and drinking. It’s been 1 month now.”

Still somewhat in bewilderment at 6:15am I smile, congratulate her, wish her the best and turn to continue running. I begin to contemplate how a simple, daily act of mine can lead to inspiration for another, and then be returned to me.  And, here I thought I was being selfish by taking time for myself to run each day. My heart begins to warm and I am renewed with new purpose to my running habit.

For 11 months after that first encounter as I approached her corner house painted in a heavy green, I would look for her to give her a wave and greeting. We have exchanged names, remarked on the weather or sunrise, and I would receive periodic updates on how long it has been since she stopped smoking and drinking.

During month 10 for Christy – my Dad visited with me for a week. I outfitted him on my mountain bike to ride alongside as I went for a morning run. It had been about a month since I have last seen Christy and as we pass by I tell him the story of my neighbor and how my simple daily act of running inspired her to stop smoking and drinking to improve her health.

An hour later we are passing by on our way home. A block past Christy’s house a woman pulls out in front from a side street. I look in amazement as I realize Christy is riding a bike.

I introduce her to my Dad and she gushes to him how much of an inspiration I have been through my daily discipline in healthy activity and how this helped her take interest in having a healthier lifestyle. Christy highlighted the positive impacts from my daily running which was a welcome departure to how I felt others perceived my running as a narcissistic act including my Dad. Growing up, my Dad spent a significant amount of his time training for Ironman competitions. He felt in hindsight this had taken him away from family time and as a father. Conversations on this topic made me question my motives for running and the time commitment impacts they had on others close to me.

I remark to Christy how long it has been since I saw her last. She responds that she has taken up going for rides or walks to increase her daily activity and thus we have not been crossing paths as frequently. Whenever, I am feeling negative about running – either I am tired, sore, or can think of a million other things I would be rather doing – I pass by Christie’s house and have a renewed lightness in my step and am thankful for her shout out that first morning I ran by.

Soon after her 1-year anniversary I was not able to run for a dreary long 10 months due to recovering from a difficult running injury. I forgot about Christy, her green corner house, and her resolution to not drink or smoke. I was melancholy in my own thoughts and struggling to attempt some level of fitness. Then for a month I was able to build into short 2-4 mile runs every few days. Slowly as the weeks passed I was able to extend my runs. Through this past year of not running I have turned to many others for inspiration for myself. Some being friends, some family, and others just doing what they do with a smile. I am grateful for these often anonymous persons being an uplifting force for me and demonstrating how each of us can be a positive influence to others.

Two weeks ago, about a year since I last saw Christy, I decided to test out my old running route again. Just down the street from my neighbor’s corner house, I see her waving and shouting to me!

In a bubbling of conversation Christy exclaims her delight in seeing me just a few days away from her 2 year anniversary for not drinking or smoking!

I am delighted to be reminded how my daily actions can be an uplifting force for someone else and provides me positive energy in return to dispel the melancholy clouds.

When injured I switched from daily runs to seeking mountain swimming holes
regularly with Lisa. Upper Sabino Creek, Tucson, AZ on an overnight backpack.
Yuba River after a short 2 mile jog, Nevada City, CA shortly
after crewing at Western States Endurance Run. 
Sabino Creek just a couple of weeks ago after my first hill effort
workout and about 75% back running.