My view of life was once summed up by Keith Richards, who reportedly once said, “I’m happy to be here; I’m happy to be anywhere.” But every now and then there are special moments that make you stop and think about how lucky we all are. For many of us, these moments come most frequently on the run.
Maybe it’s because of the hour, or the route, or the fact that we’re more open to appreciating those special moments when we’re running, but there are sights and sounds I’ve experienced while training and racing that I never would have had if I wasn’t a runner. Seeing whales breaching while running along the shore in Kawaii; seeing a storm roll in while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on foot; looking up and seeing Mt. Everest in the distance as I gulped in air during a trail run.
This morning I experienced another one of those moments. As many of you know, I live in Washington D.C. This morning I had planned on meeting my friend Ann for a pre-12-miler. We ran down the mostly silent streets towards the National Mall. Upon reaching the Lincoln Memorial, we decided to stop and appreciate the view. Most days I glance over, but continue on my run. Today we scaled the steps, gazed in Abe’s unblinking eyes, and read the Gettysburg Address for the millionth time. As we looked eastward along the Mall, mist shrouded the top of the Washington Monument.
We continued along Independence Avenue eastward on the south side of the Mall. We passed groups of USO staff who seemed to be preparing for something. We rounded the Capitol, and as we came up on its eastern front, we saw a marching band in formation. As we ran past, they began to play, as if they were waiting for us. Photographers snapped shots of us running by, enjoying the odd juxtaposition.
As we turned to head up Pennsylvania Avenue, we saw the street was lined with soldiers and policemen. The cross-streets were all closed off by police cruisers, their lights flashing red and blue. Ann and I realized this was a practice run for next week’s inaugural parade. Intrigued, we ran the route, enjoying both the spectacle, and also the absolute silence of the moment. Not a word was being spoken; not a sound was being made.
We ran on the sidewalks, but as we neared the White House, we couldn’t take it any longer. We ran into the street, pretending to be in the parade. Hell, we pretended the parade was for us. As we neared the White House, I joked about wanting to thank all the soldiers and police in their ranks for helping make this presidential fantasy come true. Just then a loud voice blared “Please step out of the road and onto the sidewalk!‘ A soldier looked at us and said, “we’re not all lined up here for y’all!” Ann and I sheepishly veered towards the sidewalk.
It was a great morning, and one that I never would have experienced in quite that way if I wasn’t a runner.