August 9, 2012Starting about four months ago, on my way to work each morning, I began noticing the same guy jogging along the road. The only reason I noticed him was because his running form was pretty bad. I could tell that he wasn't an experienced runner. He was wearing athletic shorts that were way too long, a cotton t-shirt that would get soaked with sweat and cause chaffing and he had these big Aviator style sunglasses that no seasoned runner would opt to wear while bobbing up and down along the side of the road. Plus, he often looked liked he was having a pretty rough time of it. I predicted his enthusiasm for running would wear off pretty fast. Every morning though, there he was. Running.
Over the course of several weeks, I noticed his form became a little more textbook. As a runner myself, I know it's pretty common to seek out the advice of experts when trying to improve your performance. For the first few months after my decision to become a runner, I had all the grace and technical skill of a sack of potatoes barreling down a steep slope. I read running magazines, picked up two different books on the subject and made an effort to run better. I started thinking my prediction the morning runner would peter out might have been a bit premature because every morning, there he was. Running.
By the second month of seeing this guy every day, more had changed. His Aviators were now sporty sunglasses that held tightly to his face, his running shorts were actual running shorts and his shirt was made of a quick-dry material worn by runners. This guy was clearly serious about his decision to become a runner. Very serious. I can only muster up about three runs in a week on a good week, but every morning, there he was. Running.
Three months in and the morning runner had become kind of a symbol of ambition and endurance. Stick-to-itiveness. Dogged perseverance. It's hard enough to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, much less to go for a run. Not to mention, it was hot. This was around mid-May, and I don't need to tell you how hot it was in May - even early in the morning. I'm not sure what made this fellow decide he wanted to be a runner. I'm not sure what made him decide he wanted to be a better runner, and I'm not sure what gave him the drive to keep going - but it was kind of inspiring. It was consistently inspiring because every morning, there he was. Running.
About the middle of July, though, the morning runner was nowhere to be seen. At first, I thought maybe he was just taking a week off or away on vacation. Maybe he'd taken up running in order to drop a few pounds for that vacation and was off enjoying his hard work. You would think a person who had trained so consistently and worked so hard to improve his skill would probably get right back on the horse upon his return though. The heat was pretty unbearable, so I theorized he also may have simply switched up his running schedule to accommodate. Whatever the case, I hoped he hadn't just given up. I only glimpsed the morning runner for a brief moment each day, but I respected him for persevering through his difficult task without wavering. He really had become a symbol, and one I'd begun to look forward to noting on my daily drive to work. If he could get up and do it, anybody could. Anybody could make the unpleasant difficult but wise choice instead of taking the easy way. Anybody could overcome their shortcomings and become better. It was uplifting in a way.
July came and went without a trace of the morning runner. For whatever reason, he just wasn't there anymore. It was kind of disheartening, but it didn't mean all the good things I'd taken away from this person I'd never met were any less valid. If anything, they were more valid. He could still be a symbol. He could now stand for not letting your hard work go to waste...or something like that. Really, I wasn't sure, I was just kind of disappointed. And then, about a week ago, there he was. Same time of day, same road, same guy. He was running again. There's no telling what made him stop or if he actually ever did stop, but regardless he was once again persevering - and every morning since, there he is. Running.
I tell this story because a lot of folks in our area - around the country even - are trying hard to persevere. The drought is hurting farmers something fierce. Cattle farmers are making the tough decision whether to throw in the towel for the season, whether to sell their cows at a greatly reduced price or hold on just a little longer. Poultry producers are struggling because of the heat and produce farmers are simply struggling to keep things alive. Now the hardships faced by those farmers is resulting in families having to pay higher prices at the grocery store. Times are tough for pretty much everyone in one way or another, and it's important to hold on to a positive outlook. It's important to persevere. It's not easy, but it is necessary and - if there's one thing I've come to learn about the people of this county - it's something that can be done...and probably with a smile.
I'll never meet the morning runner. I can't imagine the awkward conversation upon pulling my truck alongside him and saying, "hey, where have you been? I watch you run everyday and you've become a symbol of perseverance." In fact, I feel quite confident that would probably make the guy run a great deal faster and away from me. The point is, I don't need to meet him. He's no different from the rest of us. He's just some guy who wakes up every morning and tries hard. We just need to make sure we do the same. No matter what the hardships or obstacles in our way, we just need to get up every morning and just keep running.
We can appreciate all our hard work when we get a vacation.