Keeping It Real

I have always said that the best part about becoming a runner was meeting my running peeps. In addition to finding a really great group of people (including a husband), it has allowed me into a world with its own secret language -aka- “running nerd talk.” Never is this more apparent than at a happy hour when we get involved in serious discussions of marathons, shoes, injuries, and countless other running topics.  If non-runners are with us, they will nod appropriately, try to make sense of our gibberish, and then usually just give up and order another drink (or several).

In addition, I’ve discovered that if I learn someone in my proximity is a runner… I will find a way to talk to them about running.  This person could be really anyone– a random commuter on a subway, convicted felon, arch-enemy from high school, or a superior at work who would normally intimidate me.  None of this matters; titles and status disappear as we begin a conversation about our beloved craft.  Are you training for a marathon? Which one? How many have you done? Oh, you are injured? Bummer… The conversation could go on for hours.

Yes, we runners are a tight crowd, and our loyalties to our sport cross over to personal relationships and business deals.  For example, I’ve had a friend suggest a painter because, “He did a pretty good job, and well, he’s a runner.” I’ve recommended my doctor to others because I think he’s a skilled physician who happens to be a runner. I have even heard of a case where a woman chose her divorce attorney based on the fact she discovered he was training for a marathon.

This kind of behavior isn’t exclusive to runners.  There are bikers, swimmers, golfers, knitters, readers, writers, Civil War Re-enactors, and a million other groups who band together in geekdom. As this world gets bigger and bigger and full of so much stuff, finding common ground is more important than ever. In fact, I’d like to propose that common ground, whether in the form of shared hobbies or simply the fact that we share the planet, is what makes our days easier and more enjoyable.

At a conference this week, the opening breakfast was “headlined” by four experts in the field. I have no idea what the first three speakers talked about.  I don’t even remember their names or what they looked like.  But, I do remember the fourth speaker.  He began with, “Well, does anyone in the crowd like basketball? Maybe you like the Badgers. Or perhaps Marquette?”  People cheered as he capitalized on the fact that it was NCAA season, and two Wisconsin teams were advancing to the Sweet 16.  He had the Wisconsin teacher audience in the palm of his hands as he transitioned into the business of the conference.

A friend of mine recently went to traffic court.  Having only gone before in California, she expected a long wait and a strict ruling by the judge.  She didn’t expect the judge to read her ticket, see she was from Shorewood, and promptly begin the “trial” with, “Oh, so you’re a Shorewood Greyhound?” instead of “So why didn’t you just pay your delinquent parking ticket six months ago?” A short conversation about area high schools followed, and she was out in seven minutes.

All of these instances suggest that maybe life doesn’t have to be so darn heavy all the time. We fill our days with so much business –  endless events on calendars, emails, texts, tasks, and (so many!) meetings that we sometimes forget that there is more to life than all of that seriousness.  Yes, there is work to be done. But we can’t get so involved in our business that we forget about the business of living a life we love. We can’t forget what is real to us.

We are all unique in what makes us tick.  So, perhaps if we spend our time trying to get to the bottom of that in each person we meet, we’d actually be more productive and happier as we go about our daily lives. And isn’t that the point?

May your meetings be short, your runs be long, and may you find many along the way who help you “keep it real.”

copyright 2011

by abbey algiers

Plan B

Last fall was very exciting for my running partner and I, as we finished a marathon with PR’s and qualifying times for Boston. After getting “beat up” at Boston last year, I was excited to go back, this time a little wiser and more prepared. I had plans to register the very first day (as opposed to the second or third week, as I had last year) because rumors hinted that Boston would fill fast.  Accordingly, I went online  Day 1 at 6:00 p.m. only  to see a very disturbing message: “Registration is closed for the 2011 Boston Marathon.” At first, I was in a state of disbelief. How could this happen? How could my dreams of Boston be shattered, just like that? Then, I was mad. What a rip off! I qualified, can’t they let more runners in? Come on!  Finally, I got over it (because really, what could I do?) and chalked it up to one of those things that was “not meant to be” (maybe I’d sprain an ankle at the baggage claim in Boston and never run it anyway).

With the big gig out of the question, my friend and I tried to find a spring marathon that would work with our schedules. With each marathon we considered and turned down (Did my friend really have to go to her son’s First Communion that was on the same day as the Green Bay Marathon?), I got more frustrated. Then, finally, we found “The Wautoma Jailbreak Marathon.” It fit perfectly in our schedules AND happened to be a mile from my parent’s cottage. A place to stay, familiar roads, and the fact that it was a Saturday marathon vs. Sunday all made me feel just a bit better about missing Boston. Best of all, at press time, the race website roster showed a whopping 30 participants, with none of them being Kenyans. I could win! 🙂

So, while this race previously had no spot on my “marathon bucket list,” I am now officially excited about it.

This situation isn’t all that uncommon either.  How many times do we have our sights set on something, some great thing that we can’t imagine not having… only to have it taken away, changed, or deemed impossible. Or, how often do we have a great thing going (whether it be a relationship, job, routine) only to have something come in and shake things up to the point of complete chaos?  It is because of these situations that we find ourselves resorting to “Plan B,” which many times turns out to be just what we needed in the first place.

As a teacher, I am well familiar with Plan B – it’s been a hot topic in teachers’ lounges across the state as budget cuts have placed many jobs at risk.  A discussion last week at my school was especially notable.  Several teachers were talking about their “Plan B’s”- one talked of nursing school, another of e-commerce, another of launching a writing career.  The thing of it was, none of these people sounded stressed when discussing their alternate plans. In fact, each had sparks in their eyes and excitement in their voices as they relayed what they “would do” if the “worst case scenario” happened. And, while ultimately I know these teachers did not want to get fired, the conversation that took place raised an important question:  At what point do we decide we’re going for Plan B without waiting for fate to take over?  How many times does fear of the unknown or just plain fear in general prevent us from doing what we truly love?

The problem lies in the fact that there is a huge gap between a forced Plan B and voluntary Plan B. The voluntary plan is laced with fears of failure, the unknown, and losing something good for a “what if.”

But, if we really think of it, all of those things can happen with our “Plan A’s” too, hence leading to the enactment of the forced Plan B.

When you look at it that way, it’s clear that we really have no idea when or how any of our plans are going to be foiled. Consequently, perhaps what we need to remember is that while we lack the ability to control many outcomes, we do have control over making changes on our own. Small changes. Big changes. Risky changes.  Any changes that are based on the dreams and desires that belong exclusively to each one of us.

Wouldn’t it be better then, to take action now on all of the Plan B’s that fall on our “real life” bucket lists?  After all, if we do fail, we know that there is always another plan waiting for us. And in the end, isn’t it better to go for it, rather than never risk anything at all, and get a message like: “Registration for Plan B is closed. You never went for it.”

Copyright 2011

by Abbey Algiers