So, there I was, sitting in a pizza joint, participating in a running club management meeting last night. Since this was the first meeting of the year, it was time for something which resembled an election of officers. This particular club has grown to probably around a hundred members in the past two years, but it was hard to tell that by the turnout for this meeting.
Once the pizzas and beer had been served, the general manager of the group began the business portion of the meeting. The first question of the evening was whether there were enough club members or management to constitute a quorum. I gently commented after counting heads, 'well, we do have a minyan, there are ten of us here...'
We marched quietly through the process of appointing club management for the following year, in a very congenial manner. There were several necessary roles for which several of the attendees were a good fit, and a couple of others which, while absolutely necessary for the ongoing good of the group, we felt would take a cooperative effort from one or two persons to remain successful.
With the management roles having been apportioned, the general manager finished his beer, reckoned his check with the waitress, and quietly walked out of the meeting. After having divested himself of the lion's share of what what Discovery Channel's Mike Rowe would consider running's Dirty Jobs, he looked a heck of a lot more comfortable at the end of the meeting than at the beginning. However, the assembled group at the table realized this situation was closer to that of a parent passing along the honey-do list of chores to the offspring of the family than to an election of officers for a non-profit organization.
Now, all we have to do is find a way to tell the "kids."
This morning I started to think about the simple truth: Runners are one big, honking, sometimes dysfunctional family. Once you get past the small stuff - politics, jobs, education, economics - there's an astounding similarity across the board. It's all the same whether I'm in Saskatchewan or Florida, in Boston or San Diego; running 5K in a swamp or a marathon on the roads. It's the act of putting one foot in front of the other.
Preferably in a rapid fashion.
Sure, there are groups which members are insular in nature, who consider the group which looks a whole hell of a lot like theirs but meets across town to be a bunch of heathens. But, like Jew and Samaritan, it's not the place which the activity is performed that makes it important, it's going out and doing it. It's the pursuit of physical fitness, burning off the excesses or the stresses of the day which matters. It's the reminder that chronological age is sometimes a number, and the reminder there are more important numbers to focus upon than the difference between today's date and our birthdate.
Each family has it's share of "crazy uncles" we tolerate in very small doses once or twice a year, as well as prodigies for whom we cannot help but marvel at their talent. The last set of a track workout always reminds me of the painfully-obvious truth that youth is sometimes wasted on the young...or "unfairly" resides in someone a few years more senior than I. But I cannot help but crow like a proud parent at the accomplishment of a previously-unattempted distance run or the achievement of a personal best...or even the "perfect," consistent race, or an age group award...and the list goes on and on.
So, when you see that guy or girl out on the road putting one foot in front of the other, or that group of athletes sweating through a workout, or those crazy fools with whistles and mugs, some of whom might put on funny skirts, stand in a circle and sing crazy songs after chasing some dude throwing powder on the ground, give them a smile and wave hello.
Because, really, they're your distant cousins. And mine.
And - just ask any driver on the road - we are all family.