Hello again, my running community. How are we all doing? Hanging in there? Kicking butt and taking names? Carpe diem and stuff? Or, are there any of us just taking things one day at a time? Or, perhaps still working on one step at a time? I hear you. I have days like that, too. Lots of them. If you read my last blog post for TSFM (February 9th), you know that on January 20, 2014 the world lost an incredible kid to Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a rare and incurable brain tumor, thus leaving a void so large and wide in my heart that it seems it can’t be filled. Since that tragic day that I saw Ronnie take his last breath, nothing has felt right and running isn’t fixing it the way that it has fixed so many other challenges that have come my way in the past. But, for Ronnie, I keep running, even though it takes all my strength and effort to get out there and make my Garmin chirp mile after mile.

I’m usually a morning runner. I prefer my world fresh and new. I enjoy beginning a run in absolute silence and finishing with a crescendo of noisy and opinionated birds. I like to imagine that I’m the first one to see the sun peek out over the mountains; perhaps a gift from Ronnie for me to silently appreciate and adore.

Lately, these simple moments of peace aren’t enough to combat my lack of desire to run. While I’m still out there, clocking nearly 50 miles a week, it’s hard, and I am not enjoying myself. I won’t stop, not ever, because I run for Ronnie. I remember his sweet, little face and his hearty chuckle and I keep going. But, when does this get easier? When do I feel good again when I run? When will my peace be restored? Where and when will I find myself again? Will I find myself again?

These are all good questions, yes? Have you ever asked yourself these same questions? Perhaps not about running, but just in general? Heavy sigh…right?

I certainly don’t know the answers to these questions. But, here’s what I do know. My neighborhood won’t let me get lost forever. They won’t let my spirit get defeated. They will keep me running until I’m renewed.  They don’t know it, because they only know me as “that girl that’s always running”, but they are making sure I stay on my path as they cheer my victories, which most days, are just getting out there and running.

See, in addition to noisy birds, the first ray of sunshine, and a fresh new world, morning running also offers morning runners and walkers. Those like-minded folks who get out there just as I do to appreciate the world while everyone else is still pouring over their coffee and wiping the sleep from their tired eyes.

I’m not sure if it’s purely coincidence or a subconscious act on my part, but my running routes collide daily with the same group of retirees, or “The Classics”, as I call them. Every couple of miles, I usually see one of The Classics. Most have no idea about my name, what I do for a living, or what challenges I’m currently facing. They have no idea that I’d rather be doing anything but run.

But, when I run past them and they ask me how far I’m running that day, or if I’m training for the Olympics, and I find myself smiling at them with sincerity. Sometimes, in a jovial and playful way they might tell me that I’m making them look bad. Or, they might just clap their hands and tell me that I’m doing great and to keep it up. Maybe their dog will escape from them for a quarter mile or so and run with me.  Perhaps it’s just a simple high five as I pass them by. Whatever our interaction, when I see them, in these all too brief moments, I find my heart rate quickens, my pace increases just so, and an old, familiar emotion fleetingly returns. Happiness, is that you?

The Classics are a fun and interesting group as I have come to learn. I get tidbits of information here and there (read: seek out like juicy bits of gossip) about these timeless relics at the store, from people who know them, or from my own inquiries when I stop to chat for a minute or two. I’ve learned that among The Classics are two ex-marathoners who utter “Ahh…the taper” when I tell them I’m only doing 13 miles that day after cheering my 22 miles the week before, and then I see a wave of memories flood their mind of their past glory days. Then there’s The Classic who calls me “Girl!” (With exclamation point. Always with the exclamation point.) and tells me to run faster or asks me, “Girl! What the heck are you doing?!” but then I’ll later find that he’s started his own walking group. And there’s The Classic who has prosthetic knees, shoulders, and hip and walks every day with his sweet dog, which he also takes to nursing homes to visit the elderly and ill. And, one must not forget the retired CHP officer Classic who doles out road safety advice almost as much as he does dog treats to his two Australian Sheppards that should be named “Crazy” and “Crazier”. The list of Classics goes on and on…

I love The Classics for their perseverance and dedication to fitness; I see far more of them than I do my own age demographic getting out there. I love their quirky personalities and charm. And I love their predictability, because I can set my watch to their workouts and almost always collide with one or more of them. Because, you see, The Classics will never know how they are keeping me running. They will never know that they are the reason I opt for 20 miles instead of 15 on Sundays. They will never know that they are my vehicles for peace restored. They will never know how much I appreciate them and rely on their unconditional optimism, or conversely, how deeply I feel their absence when our paths don’t collide.  I wish I could get them each an TSFM finisher’s medal when I run it this July because I feel like they deserve it just as much as I do, maybe more.  Which, then, makes me wonder…maybe they should know how much I appreciate and count on them.

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As if training for a challenging, yet rewarding, 13.1 or 26.2 wasn’t enough, I offer you this challenge. Think not just about who or what you run for, but also about who or what else gets you to the starting line, and then throw out a little thanks. Maybe it’s the spouse or partner that watches the kids so you don’t have to skip a workout, or the makers of Trader Joe’s orange chicken who fill your belly after you’ve run your long run, or your own version of The Classics that help you get through the miles a little stronger than before you started. The next time you’re out there, pay it forward and throw a little appreciation out their way because, who knows? Maybe they need it as much as you do.

To register for the San Francisco Marathon, go to: www.thesfmarathon.com