I was inspired to write during my long run today, as per usual.  I thought about where I am today versus where I was just a few years ago.  On the surface it may not look like much.  Perhaps my tempo pace is slightly quicker than it was, perhaps I can run longer, I don’t tire as easily.  But the most important changes are entirely more subtle.

I started trail running in a much larger city.  When circumstances brought me back to my smaller town, I longed for my former running community.  I saw photos of friends on FaceBook getting together for group runs and felt dejected to be so far away and in a region that I felt had less to offer trail runners in the way of camaraderie.  

I found myself complaining and relating my story of dejection to a coworker one day, but instead of responding with the typical “oh, that’s too bad”, they called me on my complaint: “well, that sounds like an opportunity”.

The challenge was subtle but succinct. 

After our conversation, I posted my first group run on FaceBook.  In the beginning I was nervous to host, I wondered if I could keep people interested if we didn’t have anything in common.  Attendance was modest and there were times where I would arrive at the meeting point to find myself alone.  I had to remind myself that I’d be getting a run in anyways, having company was just a bonus.  

I started thinking about how we could attract more runners and reduce the barrier to starting.  Being a newer runner myself, I still recalled the nervousness of driving to a new place and meeting new people, as well as the feeling of being the slowest runner on the trail.  I remembered how good it felt when someone would pace themselves to run beside you, and alternatively how much of a drag it was to be alone at the back.  I made it my goal to always make runners feel welcome and never leave anyone behind.

I continued my weekly trail runs, and over time attendance grew.  Runners thanked me for the encouragement, and I began to hear them passing along the encouragement to their peers.  I found myself leaving each run with a full heart.  

Through it all I’ve come to learn that while it’s easy to sit back and criticize, it’s 1000 times more rewarding to contribute.  This is what you can’t see on the surface.  This is the most important change.

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