“Four miles down, two to go.”
It seemed like the third time I’d told myself that very count. Mileage wasn’t passing. People were, not mileage. A short six miles was turning into a torturous climb under the sweltering Georgia sun.
And then, I saw him!
He came toward me walking confidently with both hands shoved in his pockets. His dark hair with streaks of gray hung well below his shoulders – unkempt, but not messy. Although there was no breeze, it seemed to wave behind him majestically like a flag in a hurricane.
In the brief moment he stood before me, I saw in his eyes a certain combination of peace, sagacity, and happiness uncommon to this world. He smiled slightly, but not at me. No, he radiated carefree joy – I was just a party to it. His turned up mouth revealed lines chiseled by years and somehow, if possible, even his eyes smiled.
He wore nothing special – wrinkled khaki pants, dirty sandals, and a grey t-shirt far too big for him that simply said, “Whistler”. I sensed he was above making clothing choices and didn’t consider what his appearance told others.
I must remark that I typically don’t notice much about others on my runs. I wave and say hello to fellow runners. I try to smile, but I don’t really look at them. That said, I was mesmerized by this gentleman.
When we passed each other, I realized that I had finally broken into my last mile. How? What propelled me? I had been running in quicksand all this time, never making progress and suddenly a mile ticked off! How did that happen?
The heat became stifling at 5.5 miles, but with the finish in sight, I soldiered on. Plodding, pushing, slogging until I nearly fell out with two tenths of a mile to go. And there he was again. Seated at the bench that marked my final turn. How he got in front of me I have no idea, but there he sat – smiling at me. This time I was certain he was smiling at me… For ME!
I collapsed ten feet from him and crawled on my hands and knees toward his bench, ready to thank him for helping me through the tough part of the run and hoping to learn something… anything at his feet. Just when I began to speak, he held up a finger. At his command, nature seemed to come to a stop. Birds didn’t chirp, frogs hushed, and rabbits ceased their noisy hopping.
When the time was right, he began to laugh – a slow, deliberate, infectious chuckle that I felt contained a slight mocking tone.
“Why do you laugh, Guru?” I asked, my voice taking the tone of Grasshopper.
He cocked his head back and roared. “You have not completed your run,” he mocked.
“Yes, yes,” I pleaded. “I have gone six miles.”
“Observe your watch,” He instructed between peals of mirth. “You are precisely 1/10th of a mile short.”
I frantically searched the screen of my GPS watch. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”
He was right. How did he know? I looked up, only to find he was no longer there. His laughter still hung in the air and haunted me – but he was gone. Where he went, I know not. I both hated him and wanted to be his best friend at the same time – I’ve never been so conflicted.
I wonder if I’ll ever see the guru again. I want to, and then again, I don’t.
Next week, I’ll run a tenth over my goal and show him!
This was a little writing exercise I concocted, built around an interesting man I saw on my Sunday run. Can you picture him?