I ran with an old friend today… in the rain. I hadn’t planned on it; it was rather unforeseen.
When I awoke this morning, I heard the steady rain against the bedroom window and considered skipping my run, “So much to do today. Do I really want to run in the pouring rain?”
I made a compromise by staying under the supple, inviting covers an extra half hour, and told myself what I always tell myself when I don’t want to run, “Just head out anyway. If you’re not feeling it, you can turn back and cut the run short.”
On my drive to the trail, the rain mocked my decision. With the windshield wipers on high, the rain beat down relentlessly. For the second instance that morning, I delayed my run choosing to stop at the grocery store instead.
“Maybe the rain will let up by the time I finish shopping,” I thought.
No such luck.
At the trailhead, I had my pick of parking spots in the empty lot. It wasn’t difficult to imagine why no one wanted to use the trail.
The downpour forced me to leave my watch and phone in the car. With nothing more than a hat and my usual running attire, I hit the trail. I fell into an easy rhythm and allowed the natural surroundings to absorb my body.
Unexpectedly, I heard my friend’s voice calling my name. I hadn’t seen her in years.
How unusual to meet her here!
Thank goodness, I wasn’t running in my customary fashion with music blaring through headphones, otherwise, I never would have heard her calling.
We embraced and quickly fell into stride with each other. As the miles passed, we completely forgot about the rain; instead, we focused on catching up and reminiscing about days gone by.
She had been my college professor in undergrad, the head of my major department. On the very first day of my sophomore year, in the first class I ever took with her, she announced she was looking for a work-study assistant, someone who qualified through the financial aid office. Immediately following class, I spoke to her and arranged an interview. Later that day, I accepted the job she offered.
For three and a half years, I worked with her nearly every day. Side by side, we sat in her cramped office with books and papers piled high on top of desks and filing cabinets. We worked and talked and connected. We shared the office responsibilities, and we shared our lives. Little by little, we formed a tight bond.
During my first senior year in college, she took me to a conference in California. We talked about that as we ran: skipping a day of the conference for the beach, visiting the zoo, and hiking Sierra Madre.
After graduation, I moved three hours away from her, but we stayed in touch. My parents lived close to her, and I visited her when I visited them. Fortunately, she had work in the town I had moved to, so several times a year she’d call me up the night before or the morning of and say, “Guess what? I’m coming to town today!”
(During this period of my life, I was working full time, married, and parenting my husband’s three teenage and pre-teenage children. Was I ready for her visit? Never. Was the house clean? Usually not. Were we busy with our own lives? Of course! Did I make time for her on such short notice? Absolutely!)
Every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I would answer, “YAY! Will you PLEASE stay at our house? We’d love to have you! I’d love to see you!”
She always stayed with us. Even though she had a budget for a hotel and could have used the night to work. Even though we had a house full of people with schedules and homework and even though she had to sleep in the loft without a door, she stayed with us.
As we ran this morning, we laughed about those visits. “Remember when you called the night before B’s surgery, and I still begged you to stay? We had to order pizza, because that’s what the patient wanted, but you stayed with us. And I’m so glad you did!”
We ran and talked and laughed and ran some more. We even continued past the turn-around spot, choosing to run farther, extending our time together. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t want the run to end.
At one point, we stopped running and I cried. I missed her.
The tears were brief, and we picked up running again. Near the end of the trail, she left as quickly as she came and I thanked God for the time I had with her.
You see, my friend, the one I’m talking about, Gwen, died two and half years ago after a relatively brief and brave fight with lung cancer. So, this morning, on the trail, did I actually see her? Well, no, but I swear she was there. I heard her. I felt her.
If I had been running in my typical fashion, preoccupied with my iPhone, music, pace, and distance, I wouldn’t have heard her. So often, I’m burdened with the duties of my daily life, I don’t take time to reflect, to savor … to listen.
Advice to all runners- next time it’s raining, grab a hat, and head outside WITHOUT your phone or watch. Even if it’s not raining, every so often unplug, spend some time alone – truly alone with yourself on your run. Who knows who might join you?
Advice to everyone, all runners, non-runners, sisters, brothers-
Open your hearts and open your homes. Will you be inconvenienced? Definitely. Will your schedule be disrupted? Without a doubt. Will you lose sleep staying up late talking, reconnecting? Probably. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Thank you, Gwen, for running with me this morning. Maybe I’ll catch you in the next rainstorm!