“PB&J and a Little Encouragement at the Bay!”
The other day I decided to eat my lunch at a bayside park I like to go to. As I sat in my car and began to eat, I noticed a young man in his mid 20’s stretching and preparing to go for a run. I didn’t think much of it, after all it was a beautiful sunny day here in San Diego and this park is a very popular place with runners, bicyclist and walkers – but the one thing that stood out, that caused me to take notice of this particular runner, was that he didn’t appear to be the “typical” runner you normally see here. He was wearing an old dirty red t-shirt, cargo shorts and a pair of VERY worn out tennis shoes. Not thinking much of it, I continued on with my PB&J sandwich while enjoying the cool refreshing ocean breeze (on what would have been a rather warm day without it).
Nearing the end of my lunch, I glanced up for a second and saw that young man returning from his run and approaching his car. As I started to lower my head and finish up my lunch, I heard a voice calling from across the parking lot (faint at first, but becoming louder) and out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure fast approaching. “Excuse me . . . Excuse me . . . Can I give you some advice?” I looked up and saw a very “fit”, older gentleman, and from my first impression I knew this guy was a runner. He was outfitted in a runner’s shirt with matching shorts and a pair of semi-new, name brand running shoes (you could tell these had been “broken in” to a nice comfortable fit).
The young man looked up and, in what halfway seemed to be a question, he hesitantly said “okay.” At this point, my attention shifted from my chocolate chip cookies to what was going on in the parking lot behind me. As I watched from the different angles that my rear view and side mirrors provided, I saw this “seasoned” runner begin to respectfully evaluate the “emerging” runner’s technique and form. He began to demonstrate the proper running technique while giving sound, tried and true advice with coach-like authority. Then, he said to the younger man, “Okay, now you try”. The younger man took off across the parking lot, “Lift your knees higher”, I heard . . . “Chin up, shoulder back . . . Breathe . . . That’s it!”.
As I watched this seasoned runner coaching the emerging runner first by demonstrating the technique so that the younger man could see how it looks, and then following it up with words of encouragement – I recognized right away . . . he was coaching (or leading, if you will) by example. No telling how many years this seasoned runner had been running, or of the countless races won . . . and lost. But this I do know, his techniques appeared to be finely tuned over many years and were second nature to him – undoubtedly passed on from another who cared enough to coach him. As he started back towards the sidewalk to pickup where he left off on his run, I reached for the door handle to get out of my car to thank him and share some words of encouragement, but I wasn’t quite quick enough and before I knew it, he was gone.
All three of us that day went away encouraged in one form or another. The emerging runner benefitted from the experiences of a seasoned runner, he was encouraged knowing that someone who had been where he was going took the time to share from his own life experiences. The seasoned runner was encouraged by helping an emerging runner from lessons learned – knowing that what he had gone through (good and bad) gave him the experiences that he could use to coach another. And I, as an observer, was encouraged by the willingness of the seasoned runner to slow down, pay attention to those around him and the willingness to stop mid-pace to coach others. We should all follow his example and open our eyes and pay attention to others around us who could use a little coaching and encouragement.