Yesterday I ran alone. Saturdays are my long runs and I’m thankful for a group of friends that keep me accountable and entertained, but no one was running, so I went solo. I started late and wasn’t particularly happy about being alone until I ran into a large running group from Fleet Feet.
The route of the large marathon training group was opposite to mine so I went by what seem to be hundreds of runners for the first 4 miles of my run. The runners up front were focused on their fast pace with perfect form and determination on their faces. Knowing runners’ etiquette, I smiled and waved as I passed by. Once I turned the corner, I realized that this was a very large group, and that I would be smiling and waving a whole lot. But then it hit me: “I’ll smile and encourage these guys on. I have nothing better to do anyway.” I’m glad I did.
Those on the back of the line, the slow runners, novices who might be having their first race experience, were as determine as the speedsters leading the group, but their labored faces and struggling form made the run a lot more arduous on them than most of the front runners. I smiled and waved even more for them. I kept grinning and saying “good morning!” Most of them would lift their heads up, smile back and put a little zip back into their tired stride. I loved seeing that happen.
It didn’t cost me anything to smile, wave and be pleasant–perhaps some energy and effort. But it made a difference to some of the tired runners who found encouragement in a stranger’s face. I have that option every day in all my exchanges. Whether I’m running in my neighborhood, walking through an airport or perusing through a grocery store isle.
I know that some of my friends in the northeast find eye contact unnerving, but I would challenge you to take time to smile and encourage someone today. It will not cost you anything and it might just be the kindness that they need.