Friday, February 20, 2009

Running in the Snow

I finally did it! After over a year's hiatus from running, I finally hauled myself outside to go run around the block. I knew I needed to; I'm not nearly as fit as I used to be, and sitting around lamenting that fact wasn't going to fix a thing. Someone came into my room and announced it was snowing. Sure enough, I looked outside and saw the white stuff accumulating. Ugh.

I still went. I knew if I used the snow as a reason not to go, I'd only be lying to myself. I used to run in the rain, sleet, snow, and subzero temperatures. I knew it could be done safely. As such, I knew if I didn't go, it wouldn't be because of inclement weather. It would be because I was too lazy.

With that in mind, I headed out. iPod on shuffle and decked out for the weather, I couldn't help but smile. It seemed pretty stupid, going out to run when just enough snow had accumulated to make things slippery. It seemed pretty stupid, heading outside to get pelted with snow that got in my eyes and made my makeup run. It seemed pretty stupid, braving the sidewalks when a brand-new, indoor rec center resided just across campus.

But it was wonderful. In all of its senselessness, it was great. I was outside, snow flying into my face, wind making me squint, and I felt alive! It reminded me a lot of flying. How many runners are out there? Millions, and not all of them run because that's how they keep those winter pounds off. People love running, bicycling, and kayaking, and some days I'd wager that's crazier than flying.

The streets I ran along are familiar to me, but I saw them differently today. Who lived in those apartments? What were they like? Who was that guy in the orange Mustang that clearly couldn't drive in the snow? Where was he from? Whose genius idea was it to make sidewalk paint so slippery? And who put those deathly metal plates on the sidewalk ramps?

I had time to notice details instead of blazing by in my car, fumbling with the radio and reading directions. It's sort of like the difference between hearing and listening. There's observing and seeing, really seeing. I was alone, left to see the world around me and revel at the wonder in the ordinary, yet I was never alone. On my final leg back to the dorm, I crossed paths with two other runners headed the opposite direction. We shared a brief knowing smile as we passed.

I wasn't alone. I was in the company of kindred spirits.

Just like I'm never alone flying, even if I'm up solo. I'm surrounded by thousands of others for whom the sky was home, past, present, and future. I can imagine the exotic nature of flying back when the Cub I'm flying was new, the excitement surrounding private aviation and the thrill of taking flight for the first time after never knowing it was possible for you. I know fellow students and their passion for flying. I've seen them watching each airplane take off and land, leaving a small piece of themselves at the airport even when they're not physically present. I see the children and young adults looking skyward as an airplane passes overhead. I see their eyes light up and their faces become animated as they think to themselves, "Someday, someday . . ."

I love that.

I love knowing I can be alone, and yet also have the support of an entire global community. There's not really a suitable word for that level of cool. It's because of this that I'm trying, whether successfully or not, to help that community become more effective in welcoming in new members.

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