Today’s workout was trying. My legs felt asleep during an early round of 800 meter repeats on a muggy day. I pushed and focused, yet still missed my target pace. Frustrating, but it happens. As disappointed as I felt, I kept it in perspective. It’s early yet in training. The bad workouts still serve to strengthen me. As I wrapped up, I caught sight of someone I find a wonderful role model: an elderly stranger, whom I’ve seen on occasion, running.
I don’t know this man. I know neither his name, his story, nor his motivation for running. What I do know is admittedly superficial: his brisk shuffling gait, his steady pace, his forthright and inward expression. His dedication is obvious. For several years I’ve spotted him on my early morning training runs, regardless of weather.
More than once, this gentleman’s unknowingly lifted my spirits. He’s become a source of inspiration: an undaunted everyday athlete, with slight physical challenges. The sight of him instantly refocuses my mindset. If he can, I can. If he can move without complaint, so can I. If he’s not deterred from accomplishing his workout, then neither should I. His impact lasts beyond the moment he passes by. I think of him often when I’m struggling to make my own body cooperate on the run. Every single time I see this athlete advanced in years, I feel grateful. Perhaps one day I’ll tell him so.
Then Baker mentioned feeling fortunate to be able to swim, bike, and run. He runs in honor of those who can’t. When the pain in a race or training becomes unbearable, he thinks, “I am alive. This is what it feels like to be alive.” I can relate to, and appreciate, his sentiment. Last summer, I witnessed my 93-year old grandmother’s health rapidly deteriorate. To see her in the hospital – undeniably in pain, enduring procedures on her weathered body – was scarring. Despite becoming physically slight, she remained emotionally solid. Regardless of her own ordeal, she was never distracting from thinking of others. Those were the last circumstances in which I saw her.
When I ran my first marathon the following November, this thought was solid in my mind: “When I hurt, it’s a good hurt. I am choosing this pain that makes me stronger. No matter what I feel today, it will not be as awful as what Grandma went through.” And so I continue to draw inspiration from this significant woman.
The incredible thing about inspiration is it’s dynamic. It can come from an experience, a thought, a person – strangers, friends, or loved ones alike. One source of inspiration may last a moment, may help us through a specific period, or persist a lifetime. For me, it’s come from simple acts of kindness, genuine encouragement, other people’s accomplishments. It’s come from ordinary moments that are no less than amazing, and it’s been ignited by people of all ages.
For each moment of inspiration, I am thankful. To each source, I am happily indebted.