I think a smile is one of the most important pieces of running gear you can wear.
On June 23 I ran the Fairfield Half Marathon. It was a hot and sunny day and my time was my slowest ever for that distance (2:04:44). I still had a wonderful time with 5000 other runners as we moved along the coast of southern Connecticut.
It was a birthday present to myself. I know. Not many people think running 13.1 miles in 80+ degree temps and equal humidity would be much of a treat. Runners are a different breed. At the end of the race I took a picture of myself. I was smiling when I hit the button, but with the glare on the phone and noise around me I couldn’t tell when the picture was actually taken, so what I got was my face with a confused expression. And a lot of sweat.
This post isn’t about a race result. It’s about attitude. It’s about putting a smile on your face and watching it light up someone else’s.
I started thinking about this subject because of Jersey Boy. He came into my earshot around the 10th or 11th mile and he kept a constant banter going as he ran along. He joked with other runners, spectators and the support people at the watering tables. Just listening to him brought a smile to my face as well as just about everyone around him. I saw him at the end of the race and thanked him for the entertainment. He had the same kind of expression I am sporting in my picture, but he smiled when I thanked him.
It got me thinking about how important keeping that kind of fun attitude is to having a good run. I am not as gregarious as Jersey Boy, but I do smile and say “Hi” to every runner, cyclist or pedestrian I see when I am out on the road. If I come up from behind on someone I will make a comment about the weather or how the run feels. In almost every case I get a positive reaction and a smile back. Sometimes I get people flabbergasted because I am running in sandals. That is always fun
I also wave at every police car that passes. On one occasion I got a roof full of flashing lights in response. Regardless of the dark windows on the cars, police officers see everything on the road, so I know they see me. Every single time I wave I can see the wave come back. In the small town where I live, it is a way of making a connection that counts. I’ve been running here for twelve years and waving at the police the whole time. I am sure they know me by now. Hmmm. I wonder if the NSA is intercepting my Sportstracker tweets?
There is also my virtual waving. On twitter I follow #running. A couple of times a day I’ll watch fellow runners post their times, pictures, accomplishments, disappointments, goals, and thoughts. It is a worldwide community and very active. If I see a tweet that is interesting – someone who had a great run or who needs encouragement or just did something funny, I’ll send them a reply and make a comment. I’ve gotten to know some really good people by just sending a virtual smile.
What I love about this sport is that it is egalitarian. There is a sense that any run is legitimate and any runner is to be respected. I am certain there are prima donnas who whine about everything or look down on those less gifted. But, they are the minority. What I have seen is acceptance. And that is fine with me. We leave all the shit of life behind us when we run. That is reason enough to smile.