On Thursday, about an hour before my lunchtime run, I ran into one of the faculty members at the university. Because I'm too lazy to buy or wear shoes, I head out of the house most mornings that I'm planning to run at lunch wearing my running shoes.
The professor asked me what I was running in (Mizunos) and we had a short conversation about shoes, Woodbridge Running Company, and at the end of the conversation, he said something that was a little disturbing. "You're an inspiration to us all."
Now obviously that's an overstatement. But I do know that in general the people who work at the University know who I am- I've been there for what only seems like 10 years, and they know what I do with my spare time. There's a number of people I see on a regular basis when I'm out running at lunch- the cross country coach, one of the guys from the cafeteria, some of the professors. Friends and fellow athletes also occasionally mention seeing me out on 34. There are people that do ask me about my training and my races, even ask advice.
I tend to think of what I do- the training, the racing- as strictly mundane, for the most part. I mean, the biggest race I did this year, there were two thousand other people out in the pond with me at the start. The marathon I ran, over 500. Other days, like today, I'm out at a race with 60 people (last week was 24) that no one not in the know even knows about. Some of what you do, you're invisible, and other times you're anonymous. I kind of treasure those races where I have that anonymity at the start of the race, where no one knows you.
It's a little embarrassing to be told you're an inspiration. I mean, I have two good arms and legs, a decent job, a car that runs, a wife and son, a roof over my head. My biggest obstacles are the number of hours in the day and my need to always be 'doing something.' One actually helps me overcome the other. I think of the one-legged cyclist or the guy in a wheelchair that runs with his hands as an inspiration. The person that works on their feet all day but runs a 16 minute 5K. And all kinds of people that have nothing to do with sports- the working single mom with four kids that goes to night school, people who battle debilitating diseases.
But nobody gets off that easy. You don't have to be special or important or anything else to be an inspiration to someone else. I think all of us that do get out on a regular basis, do our workouts, get to a few races, are inspiring to other people. When that professor told me I was an inspiration, well, he really is talking about an 'us.' The community of people that have make that decision to get out there, to pursue something that's at once individualistic and communual.
I just hope that when the time comes and I do have to provide real personal inspiration- to my son- I'm up to that task.