Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sharing the Sidewalk With Tuba Guy

While I was running this lovely autumn evening, a remarkable thing happened.  Today was not one of those days where I felt fast.  Today was one of those days where I felt a little beat up and slow, so I was slogging my way up one of the longer hills on my route, when up in the distance I saw Tuba Guy.  Tuba Guy was on my same sidewalk.

Residents of Fairfax know who Tuba Guy is.  He's this guy who walks around town playing his tuba--okay, technically it's a sousaphone.  Everyone who's been around Fairfax for a couple of years knows who Tuba Guy is, they've seen him on his almost-daily excursions.  He's been in the Fairfax City Independence Day parade the last few years, and the only people who get louder cheers than Tuba Guy are the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Given that we've lived here for a decade, and given how much I run along the roads that are part of Tuba Guy's regular route, it's reasonable to think that I would have shared the sidewalk with him on several occasions.  The truth is, tonight was only the second time in ten years that I have been on the same sidewalk with Tuba Guy.

But that's not the remarkable part.  At this point I should probably say that I do not wear headphones or listen to music when I run.  I have nothing against people who do, but as I have noted previously in this blog, I choose to use my running time to think big thoughts and ponder the complexities of life and the universe.  Or something like that.

The remarkable part was that when I was still about 150 meters or so away from Tuba Guy, he turned around and he started to play.  Tuba Guy was playing for me.  And I started to get a little pep in my step.  I started to move a little bit quicker.  And for the next two or three minutes, I had Tuba Guy playing a soundtrack for my run.  And it was AWESOME.

Now I seriously doubt that Tuba Guy was actually playing for me.  He was just doing what he does--he walks along and he plays his sousaphone.  And he probably has no idea that the fact that he turned around and started playing when he did was a huge boost for me.  So for Tuba Guy it was probably just another beautiful autumn evening in Virginia, but for me it was exactly what I needed at that point of my run.

As I get older and reflect on the little things in life, this was another one of those experiences that reminds me that those little random acts that might not seem like a big deal to us as we do them can have a big impact on other people.  We might never know it, but that doesn't make those little random acts any less important to the people that it affects.  I wasn't in a bad place today while I was out running--I was maybe lagging a little bit, but I wasn't in distress or about to pass out or anything.  But the feeling that Tuba Guy was providing a soundtrack just for me as I ran up that hill, that made me feel pretty good.

So smile at people when you pass them on the street, in the store, in the hallway at work or school or wherever.  You never know when that simple little random act can have a huge positive effect on someone else.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Of a Resolution (Finally) Kept and Lessons Learned

For the last three years I have had made one New Year's resolution, one goal.  Same goal each of those three years.  Run 1,000 miles during the calendar year.

I have never been one to make too many New Year's resolutions.  I am a firm believer in making goals and working to achieve them, but I'm not the type that at the start of each new year makes a list of things I will and won't do.  This was something that I really wanted to do, though.

In 2014 I finally accomplished this goal.  For me, it's a HUGE milestone.  I like to run; both of my blog readers can tell you that.  I am not a fast runner, I am competitive only with myself.  I have actually won my age group in two races.  Both time, I was the only one in my age group.  So it's not like I'm some amazing running guru.

In both 2012 and 2013 I came woefully short of my goal.  Like a couple hundred miles short.  I can make excuses for why it didn't happen.  I had injuries that took me out for weeks at a time in each of those years.  I had a challenging work schedule.  I was traveling, blah-blah-blah.

But this past year, I did it.  One thousand miles.  Aside from the obvious physical benefits of running, I think the spiritual lessons I learned are of greater worth to me.  It took over 170 hours of running over the year, and I had a lot of time to think about a lot of things.  My family, my seminary class, my job, the world in general, my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  Sure, I thought about running, too, but often my internal musings inclined towards the application of what I was doing to life in general, such as:
  • The journey of a thousand miles does not happen in a single day.  It requires persistence and dedicated effort spread out over a long time.  A few miles every day adds up over time, and you cannot forget that even those quick, little efforts are part of the long-term cumulative goal.
  • When the big tests in life come, you can see the strength that comes from consistent, daily efforts to strengthen yourself.  You cannot decide that you will run a marathon a couple of days or even a couple of weeks before and expect to do well.  You need to get those daily, short training runs in, with the occasional long runs.  Likewise, when those trials in life come--and they will inevitably come--we will be better prepared to deal with them with our Father's help when we have made consistent, daily efforts to include Him in our lives through regular prayer and scripture study.
  • Despite our best intentions and constant efforts, we will still have bad days.  It doesn't mean that we are bad or that we are failing or that Heavenly Father has abandoned us.  It just means that some days are better than others.  We don't define ourselves by those bad days.  We learn from them and move on with the hope that tomorrow will be better.
  • Progress requires dedicated, concentrated efforts, and sometimes those efforts can seem boring, repetitious, or even a little lame.  If you want to run faster, you have to dedicate parts of your training to actually run faster.  Hoping or wishing that you will is not sufficient.  Case in point: I really do not enjoy speed workouts, but I cannot deny that my overall pace has improved because of them, hence I continue to incorporate track and hill workouts into my training regimen.  If you want to have a greater understanding of God's word, you have to be willing to immerse yourself in the scriptures and study the teachings of His prophets, even when it seems like you've already done that a million times.
  • Building on all the points above, variety can be a good thing.  Sure, I could have run the same route every day and eventually I would have reached my goal.  But some days I knew I wouldn't be able to run more than a few miles.  Other days I felt like I could take on the world and I ran much, much further.  Some days I want to dig into the scriptures and spend lots of time finding all the passages that relate to a given topic and cross referencing them between the Book of Mormon and the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants.  Other times I want to read a talk from a recent General Conference and take that quick thought with me for the day.  Either one of these is better than doing nothing.
  • Family and friends are invaluable.  No, they can't run for you, you have to do that yourself.  No, they can't read your scriptures for you, you have to do that yourself.  But they can support you, they can offer you words of encouragement, they can be there right beside you.  I would not have made it to 1,000 miles without the help of my friend Kenny.  The hours of training together are one thing, but without him, I literally would not have completed my first ultramarathon.  Likewise, without my amazing, sweet, incomparable wife Mali, I would not be half the man I am today.  She makes me want to be a better husband, father, and man.

There are other lessons--I've been toying with the idea of writing an allegory of the runner for use in my seminary class--but I'll save those for later.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go run.  I think today is a speed day.  Another thousand miles doesn't just happen on its own.