I believe I experienced my first runner's high today. It had absolutely nothing to do with the wind or the terrain or the distance to which I had traveled. It also had little to do with the fact that my asthma felt quite non-existent and my lungs had somehow taken a trip back to the days of my youth. I ran further and faster than I ever have and as I did, noticed a pattern beginning to emerge.
I fancy myself a writer. Writing has always been my outlet, my therapy and will always hold a very special place in my heart. But these days, I am beginning to fancy myself a runner as well and for entirely different purposes. I am a better person when I run and not merely because it brings me indescribable peace and contentment, although it does indeed. Running has literally made me a better person, if for no other reason than it has afforded me opportunities to be precisely that.
Since I took up running as an outlet for my anxiety and boredom less than a year ago, I have had three opportunities to prove that altruism is indeed alive and well. The first took a great deal of courage on my part, at least from my perspective. Passing through an industrial complex, I spotted a large box in the middle of the street. Considering the times we live in, I jumped straight to fear and apprehension and felt certain it was an explosive device not to be disturbed. Curiosity put my pessimistic self to bed almost immediately and tucked her in tight. I held my breath and gently nudged the box with my foot. Several tense seconds later and much to my astonishment, I found myself still standing, still breathing, all limbs intact. Upon further examination, I discovered that the box was merely a package from Urban Outfitters that had fallen off a delivery truck. I exhaled. Although I fancy myself a runner, I do not at all fancy myself an iron woman and therefore did not think it possible to haul the box the remaining four miles to my house. I promptly entered one of the nearby offices and requested the front desk staff hold it until I returned to retrieve and deliver it to its rightful owner. On I ran.
The second opportunity that arose to prove myself a do-gooder was the discovery of a wallet, or the contents therein alongside the road. It was a gorgeous day and though I am ordinarily lost in the lyrics and rhythm of my favorite songs and laser focused on my own thoughts, for some odd reason - perhaps not by chance - I was scanning the hillside as I passed. Something shiny caught my eye. Scattered amongst the bushes were several forms of identification, a gas card, frequent flyer card and yes, there was even a credit card among the debris. This quandary was much easier to navigate. There would be no shopping spree in my immediate future. Honesty and integrity prevailed and to say that I would be intrigued by my own actions would be the understatement of the year. I tucked the items into my pocket and on I ran. To my surprise, locating the owner online proved quite effortless and she was altogether pleased to be reunited with her belongings.
The third opportunity I have had the privilege of stumbling upon transpired this morning as I passed a fellow runner. Trudging along behind her was an excited and highly spirited dog. I commented on how darling he was, but a brief conversation revealed that she was not his owner and seemed perplexed as to how to proceed. We both attempted to corral the little ball of energy but he proved quite elusive. She eventually went on her way and I cannot at all fault her, as the situation appeared quite challenging. Witnessing him dart in and out of passing cars gave me pause and something inside simply would not allow me to abandon him. I waited for him to tire and when he found a shady spot, latched onto his collar and phoned the number on his tag. There was no answer but as luck would have it, a couple passing by recognized my new friend and gave us a proper introduction. They were unable to return Tsuki to his rightful owner, as they had several dogs of their own. I happily carried the pup and followed the couple back to Tsuki’s home where I secured him beyond the front gate. On I ran.
We are all capable of great things. Opportunities present themselves every day. It is how we approach and respond to these opportunities that defines our character. There were no accolades for the “good deeds” I have been blessed to bestow upon others during my runs. No one inquired as to my name and no rewards were offered, but altruism is its own reward if you allow it to be. I was simply given a chance to step outside myself and exercise a bit of kindness if only for a moment. Running has made me a better person. I can see it on the faces of the drivers passing by. There is a certain light that shines within you when you are given a choice to take the path less traveled - the one that is oftentimes, contrary to our human nature - and you heed the call. There is a certain beauty that transforms you from the inside out, a peace that captures your soul and cannot be likened or attributed to a physical act, but rather an inward change that occurs when you choose to do the “right” thing as opposed to the easy thing.
I fancy myself a runner these days, not one of elite stature but rather, one who has simply been changed by the road. These days it seems I cannot run home to the pen fast enough to share the journey, its many blessings and hopefully, restore or plant a new seed of faith in humanity. “A man with integrity walks safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” ~Proverbs 10:9