When The Woman Who Runs first overcomes me on the trail and glances back, I notice a soft light that seeps from her spirit into the air surrounding us both. Slender and athletic, she is half running, half walking, and her voice, when she speaks, is warm and inviting. She appears to be slightly older than I am, but my perception is colored by the fact that I often imagine I am still 25. Her form disappears, and I get lost in the passing conversations of others on the trail as my charge for the day, a senior black lab, slowly guides me along the trail.
Nearing the end of my walk, people dressed as bumblebees and flowers are staffing what appears to be a finish line. As I near the corner past their station, The Woman Who Runs passes me again and turns her head as we exchange glances. She pauses for a moment, and I ask her if she is almost done.
“No, I am part of an endurance marathon.”
“How long does it go for?”
“Today through Sunday.”
When I express my incredulity, she explains that participants will run/walk for 12, 32, or 48 hours, no breaks, no naps….day and night until the goal is met, around and around this lake. A young man passes, and he flashes his number, explaining that his color badge means he will be running for 12 hours. The Woman Who Runs, still running in place as we chat, shares that she is choosing to run 36 hours, and she waves goodbye.
In her absence, I contemplate my lack of physical stamina.
Often wracked with hip pain and foot pain, making it for these three miles had filled me with a sense of accomplishment until I pictured this joy-filled woman moving through the wood-lined path for another 24+ hours. Self condemnation begins to flood my thoughts, and my abilities now appear meager, eating away at the banks of my self-confidence.
And then a quote floats like a raft into my thoughts:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
I think back to The Woman Who Runs. Her light, her glow, her warmth…those emanate from her because she is anchored in who she is created to be. She runs. That is her happy place. And in her wake, joy trails her like soft perfume.
I can’t run for 12 hours. Or perhaps I have no desire to. But I will sing Baby Shark for hours in a car with small children and revel in the explosive laughter of small ones making rude body noises. That is music to my ears, and it brings great joy. And when I walk, even at my slow pace, in woods and near water, my heart explodes with love for the Creator of all this beauty and with gratitude for the Lover of my soul.
So tonight, I think, I will travel back to the lake as the sun sets to sit along the shore and await a passing appearance of The Woman Who Runs. Perhaps I will bring my guitar and sing praise to the hills and valleys, to the rivers and the sea as I wait.
Should I be blessed with another encounter, I anticipate The Woman Who Runs will still leave joy in her wake. I celebrate that.
She is The Woman Who Runs.
But I am The Woman Who Sings.
And I will send my songs across the water like skipped stones, and, hopefully, joy will travel like ripples to the shores of the lake in the wake of the notes.