Last week, my longest-term running partner and I were slogging through eight soppy miles. The cloud cover did little to assuage the moisture-heavy air. A slight breeze only swirled up the heat around us. We stopped at a shady spot to refill our water when we spotted them.
Two gorgeous young women ran toward us. “Ran” really isn’t the right word. They loped. They glided. They moved in space and time in a way I can only dream of doing. All their limbs coordinated in motion. While I’m sure I look like a lumbering giant when I run, these women were dimensional art.
Their ponytails swung side to side, sweat seemed to resist them, and they chatted easily as they flew past us. They wore bras and those tiny running panties you see the women wear at Olympic Trials. All of their tanned six packs were on full display. Their bottoms did not jiggle.
I’d seen such specimens on TV, but never in the wild. I had been, until that moment, unsure such creatures existed. They were beautiful, and their presence made me doubt, for the merest blip of a moment, my own paltry paces and miles.
I have thought of them throughout the week, these two outliers, gorgeous and wild, fast and free. Mostly with respect, tinted with just a shade of jealousy.
Today, I ran past another creature, of a type I see most frequently, and more closely resembling me. She was working hard; that much was clear by both the color (red) of her face and the expression of grim determination she wore. She covered more of her body than the gazelles in run-panties, with an oversized t-shirt and tights. Sweat pooled off her skin, just as it did mine.
She did not reveal her abs. Her bottom jiggled more than she likely wished. Her hair did not bounce with the fluid grace of the naturally athletic. If I had to guess, she most likely used a fair share of Body Glide to ward away any chafing. Just like I do.
Thing is, we’re all just trying to get somewhere. The young beauties may fly faster and farther, but their destination is not superior to the woman I spotted today. It’s not better or loftier or more righteously fit than mine or anyone else’s.
I love running on the river for this reason. I get to see humans striving to be better than we were yesterday, to cover more miles, or to hit more consistent paces, or to reconcile with a friend during a walk. I think, too, that it’s not just about the miles and the times, not merely about finishing a race at a certain pace, but about being better people. That pursuit of “better” continues off the trail, whether we want to be more productive at work or listen more deeply to our children or to heal old and battered relationships.
We’re all just trying to get somewhere. Some of us just have tighter abs.