I know it’s been a while since I’ve made a contribution to the “Why I Run” series (please visit the archives under the same heading for my previous installments) but I feel that given the current holiday season and the events of the past week, it is a most opportune time for me to discuss one of the poignant and powerful motivations for why I run.
For those who haven’t yet had the fortune of watching this wonderful movie, Pay It Forward is a low-budget feel-good story about a seventh grader, Trevor, whotook an intriguing homework assignment given to him by his social studies teacher and by completing it inspired a national movement to change the world for the better. The assignment (movie clip) was simple yet challenging: Think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor’s solution (movie clip) was revolutionary and profound: Repay good deeds not by payback, but by pay forward – doing good deeds for three new complete strangers with the understanding that they would have to pay off by helping three other new people.
I’m not going to divulge any more details about the movie, as I’m hoping you all would be intrigued enough to see it on your own. Suffice it to say that this flick ranks as one of my favorite movies of all time. I love this film not only for its simple yet elegant message, but also because it is so applicable to what we can achieve in our own lives as runners.
When I first started out, I saw running as a very individual sport. It was just me and a pair of running shoes going to war against the asphalt. The first time I went running which was only about 5 years ago, I wasn’t even able to make it past 2 miles before I called it quits and went home. Slowly though, as I laced up the shoes more habitually and visited the park more and more, it became rather obvious that I was not the only runner around. Because I didn’t know much about running at the time, I’d hang around water fountains and port-a-potty lines, listening to conversational tidbits and asking stupid questions of any runner I could find. I picked up most of what I knew about running back in the day in the most unsanitary of circumstances. Since my friends at that time were all non-runners, I was somewhat forced to learn all I could about running that way. Eventually, however, as I became more familiar and knowledgeable about the sport, I realized that this secret running passion was too great, too powerful, and too inspiring to keep to myself alone. That’s when I decided I would do what I could to introduce, teach, and/or coach three new people every year to the sport. It was the best way I knew how of giving back. Although some of my efforts have not been met with much success, others have gone on to do great things with their running. For all my time and energy, I never ask for much from those who’ve been under my tutelage. All I ask is that when the time comes, they would likewise do the same for those around them - introduce them to the sport and help them out as much as they can. In essence, they have to promise to pay it forward...
Shortly after her B.Q. the other day, F.L. came to tell me she’s been encouraging and helping out a fellow runner/blogger who recently found out she has a pelvic fracture and has to be on crutches for a while…I couldn’t help but look at her and smile. The circle is now complete. I think my own little social experiment is working out just fine.