Running reminds me there’s an actual community out there

My half marathon training is not progressing as I’d like. While I worked my way up to running four miles, three times a week – and even set a new PR for myself at a recent 5k –life got in the way again and now I’ve hit a plateau.

Yep, my mileage is at a standstill but my newfound admiration for the community of runners and walkers at my local park has increased every time I’m among them. Seeing the same faces every week has really motivated me to show up. It’s so easy to skip a run but if they’re like me, you start wondering where that person is that you’re so used to seeing. That alone is the kick in the ass I need every once in a while.

There’s:

The old man with the sunglasses and baseball hat who leisurely walk strolls by. He doesn’t have a “resting nice face” but every time I smile, say “hi” and pass by him, he cracks a grin or says something brief but encouraging as I huff and puff by him. (Last time it was “The next Olympics… you’re in!”)

The woman who always wears a modest tennis skirt and Keds, and walks around the track with small hand weights while her young son (I’m guessing he’s around nine years old) sprints around the mile-long path. He easily does laps around me.

The two older women who chat loudly, walk slowly, and take up the entire path so I always have to say “excuse me.”

The overweight man who runs/walks and who is always sweaty. I hope he knows how awesome he is!

Then there’s Bill. Bill always has a smile on his face. He’s a bit overweight, balding, and newly retired from the New Jersey school system. He walks at least five laps with his friend – also newly retired – and says “hi” to everyone who goes by him, including me. We exchange short conversations as I jog by:

“Good morning. How are you?”

“What a beautiful day to be outside.”

“Glad to see you out here. It’s so great to see the same faces every day.”

Recently, I was cooling down from a run and we had a short 5 minute conversation where we finally learned each other’s names. I wanted to tell him that how awesome it was for him to be walking on a daily basis, taking control of his health and that he inspires me.

Running has opened my eyes to the community around me in ways I never would have imagined. As we go about our daily routines, stuck on the hamster wheel, it’s easy to forget that there is a community around us filled with amazing, not-so-average people doing great things that may inspire you – even if it’s just showing up at a local park at 7 a.m. each morning for a walk.

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