On my 7 mile run this morning, I remembered one of the fun things about running in January. It’s not the refreshingly brisk weather or the hills being so green from recent rains, while those things are nice. What I enjoy the most about running in January are the resolution recruits. These new fitness enthusiasts take many forms. Whether it be a chatty group of friends taking up the whole trail forming a “none-shall pass” squadron, or a couple dressed in hoodies and sweatpants who are now sweltering because they didn’t realize their bodies would warm up as they worked out, these new year’s newbies are learning novel skills. Joining the ranks is a parade of well meaning individuals. A forty-something gentleman bracing himself, hands on knees, trying desperately to catch his breath before he passes out. A young couple running uphill way too fast with satisfied smiles plastered on their faces who will most certainly begin facing down a side stitch in another few hundred yards. New middle aged bikers, with shiny gear that just left it’s place under the Christmas Tree, are a bit wobbly on their tires and yell, “On your right,” when they meant on your left.
I run this trail several times a week. I am a regular. This is my turf. So why do I delight in the crowded trails that January brings? Because…I was once that uncertain biker, that clueless speed walker, that novice runner. I don’t begrudge you that I had to slow down and pass you in the bushes because you didn’t know to keep your group to the right and not stretch into the oncoming lane of pedestrian traffic, I understand that you were too elated with the fact that you and all your friends managed to show up this morning and do something healthy. My forty-something friend who is trying to decide whether to puke, give up, or die and is looking shamefacedly at his beer belly as he clenches his knees, I am not judging you as I try to catch your eye. I am telegraphing hope, sending you encouragement, letting you know if you keep trying it will get better. It is a mark of the seasons that the new year denotes a time for second chances, for trying something different, and it is refreshing to see hoards of people full of hope and faith that this may be their year for change.
Likewise, it doesn’t dishearten me when, come February first, we are pretty much back to the regular crowd of die-hards who were out their running and biking early on Christmas morning because every once in a while a new face will join the ranks. This year, I’m rooting for my forty-something friend. Don’t give up dude! Maybe run a little slower and on an empty stomach next time, but you’ll figure it out. You’ll find your stride and when you do, it will all be worth it!
Note from the photo that even in its crowded state, it is possible to find solitude along some of the stretches of the trail.