Our encounter on Tuesday left me, well. . . . speechless. Now that I’ve had a couple of days to think about it I’m no longer speechless, but I continue to be upset. I’ve decided none of you are worth my anger, but seeing how an excess of words are flooding my brain, I am driven to let them out and in doing so, hopefully, let you go.
As I sat on the bench along the waterfront I was focused on soaking up sunshine and being grateful for the day. I was happy to engage in my favorite waterfront past time, people watching. When it comes down to it, I’m not really people watching on the waterfront, I’m “runner watching.” As you are clearly aware, hundreds of people use their lunch hour in downtown Portland to run along the waterfront. I live to watch runners because they never cease to uplift and inspire me.
Fast runners, slow runners, skinny runners, heavy runners, young runners, old runners. All inspiring.
As I stood to make my way back to work, the three of you caught my attention, even though you were quite a distance from me having just come off the Steel Bridge. Initially it was the tall one’s bright headband that caught my eye, but as I watched you come toward me there was more. There was determination on your faces, like I’ve seen countless times before. Hell, I’ve been in the place multiple times when I believe, had I had a mirror, I would have seen the same look on my face.
It was the look of runners who are close to being done, but not close enough. Runners who are tired, possibly hurting and who just want to quit. While I saw that, I also saw what I love about runners. The determination NOT to quit. In that moment you inspired me too.
When I see an interracial couple walking down the street, I usually stare. “Stare” is probably too strong of a word, but I look at them and I smile. I always smile. It’s an awkward moment for me usually, especially if I’m alone. I was part of an interracial marriage for 23 years and am part of an interracial relationship currently. From my experiences I know a lot of times when people are looking at you, you don’t know whether their emotions are positive or negative. Truly, you shouldn’t care, but you do. You can’t help it. That’s why I always smile; it emits a much more positive vibe.
Were you not runners this would have been that kind of an awkward moment for me. I was clearly watching you and smiling and you all were aware of it. But you’re runners! You’re used to people watching you and it was lunchtime in downtown Portland, on the waterfront, on a nice and sunny day. Right?
Maybe it was my mistake. That’s what I thought at first. Maybe I shouldn’t have spoken. After a couple of days, however, I have a hard time swallowing that.
Runners are an encouraging breed. They want everyone to drink the kool-aid. They run, they love it and they want others to love it too. They support, they encourage, they teach, they cheer (unless they are the breed of runner who believes those who run slower than 8 or 9 minute miles are useless . . . but I’m not talking about those in that minority, I’m talking about the rest of us, the majority).
My words were simple, and heart-felt, my smile was honest. I say these same words often to runners who pass me. “You’re looking awesome and doing great!”
Most times I get a smile, a nod, at times I’ve gotten a high-five or a “thanks”. I don’t always get a response and quite frankly I don’t always expect one. I know the zone one must get into to run a distance. The zone can at times be all-encompassing, and further, if one is equipped with headphones my words may not actually be heard. I know all this. I get it. I’m a runner.
On reflection I wouldn’t have been so disturbed had you simply ignored my comments.
As you all approached me and I uttered my words, the tall one’s “whatever!” didn’t register immediately. What registered was the snarling look that went along with it. I had no time to react to that before the one in the HTC shirt snickered and said “don’t act like you give a shit!” I’m sure you would all agree the look on my face was that of surprise. How fitting, as you passed me, for the one in yellow compression socks to yell “bitches who have always been skinny don’t get a say.” Really? Wow. Just WOW.
You laughed, you high-fived each other and congratulated yourselves for knocking the “skinny bitch” down. Yeah. I heard you. It was hard not to.
Did I enter the Twilight Zone? Or possibly high school all over again?
The whole exchange upset me. It distorted my image of runners. It messed with my thought process. It boggled my mind for hours. Truthfully, it boggled my mind for a couple of days. But as the tall one said “whatever.”
Trust me, while I can be a bitch, I was not being one at that time. And for you to discredit my encouragement because of my size is just unreasonable, irrational and yeah, a lot like high school.
I’m certainly glad you have each other, but I pity you all.
While you have found something worthy in running (and I’m happy for you), you have missed a bigger picture. The picture that encompasses all who run.
Running, whether done alone or with others, is a personal journey. We don’t judge one another based on our reasons for the journey. We don’t measure one another by size, distance, or pace. We encourage and support each other simply because we showed up to do what so many others don’t. We showed up to run.
I hope you all step out of yourself long enough to get it, because you will only benefit from what so many others have to offer, even if only in the form of an encouraging word.
I’m letting you go now and hoping for the best.
And for the record, I haven’t “always been skinny.” I’ve worked as hard as you all appeared to be working to get to this place. When you reach your “skinny,” if that’s what you’re going for, I hope someone doesn’t judge you for it.
PDX Running Chick