The running trail is full of life lessons. Most have nothing to do with running.
Today, I felt compelled to hand out copies of my Gladiator Creed©. It’s easiest to pass them to people running opposite me which means I momentarily cross over the invisible demarcation of “my side.” I always give a quick back-glance before I do but once in a rare moment of miscalculation, I fail to see “that person” behind me. Most people greet that with “Excuse me, I’m so sorry” without missing a beat. Not today.
Today was different. Quick recap: Before my jog, I met up with my friend to donate Gladiator Necklaces for his friend’s fundraiser. At the place where I joined the trail, kids were selling lemonade so I went back to my car, got a $5 bill and gave it to them declining the lemonade but asking them to “pay it forward.” Then, I started handing my Gladiator Creed© to people along the trail.
I gave it to people relaxing on benches. Guys and girls panting as they finished their runs. Policeman - one took a handful of to pass out at the station. Kids. Grandparents. Experienced athletes and beginners. I gave them to people walking their dogs who smiled and said, “Thank you,” not even knowing what it was. It was good energy until “she” showed up.
She had a long distance runner’s body. Tiny, lean, fast. She was behind me and running so hard that my peripheral vision missed her as I “crossed the line.” She exploded. She told me that if I didn’t know the rules of the trail, I shouldn’t be out there. That the trail was no place to be handing out anything. I said, “I’m sorry. It’s just a piece of inspiration and hope.” I tried to give her one but she refused and said that she didn’t “F-ing care.” I heard it 10 feet away and I’m pretty sure the families with kids and babies in strollers around me did, too. She kept at it like I had spoiled her chance at gold...on the Katy Trail...a casual, tree-canopied, lovely gathering place for everyone.
“That woman’s” tirade made me cry. Not so much for me but for the world we have witnessed over and over again in recent years and weeks. Rage can happen anywhere, even on the Katy Trail on a cool, lovely, easy-going Saturday morning. I told her, “That was cruel and that doesn't have a place out here.” She said that I must be an “angry person” as I wished her a better day.
I am extremely non-confrontational; but, something made me run like mad to catch up with her. When I did she said that she shouldn’t have said that and she apologized. I said, “Apology accepted but please read this.” And, I handed her my Creed©. She told me she would and darted off. It doesn’t matter if she does; the lesson was in the encounter.
I finished my run with a heavy but loving heart. People - me included - head to the trail for so many different, personal reasons. What I learned today was that for most people, the trail is about community. It lures us and connects us. It comforts us. It is a sanctuary. It is an extraordinary place of social bonding, the result of nature plus people. There is a lot of joy, sadness, friendship, excitement, disappointment, courage, hope, and peace out there.
I learned a lot today; but, perhaps the most valuable lesson the trail taught me is that the very last thing most people step on the running trail to do is run.
I think I’ll take another stack of Creeds with me and hand them out tomorrow.