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.”
by abbey algiers