Yesterday after work I went for a run. And since it’s become much more of a common after work activity, I found myself once again opting for a new route, a new change of scenery.
I made my way out of my neighborhood and onto the main street, turned left and suffered up a steep hill where a bicyclist nodded at me in approval, as he too struggled. Once at the top I fought through quick breaths, knowing it would be more beneficial than stopping, and eventually made my way down the other side. I crossed another intersection, making my way down a street lush with trees that looks beautiful in the fall.
Upon reaching the next large intersection, the light turned red and I paced back and forth at the corner, waiting for the green. As I waited, a boy about the age of my brother rolled up behind me on a skateboard and began waiting at the light next to me. I continued to pace, listening to my music loudly, and most likely singing under my breath like a winded sleep talker.
When the light turned green, the boy set down his skateboard and rolled passed me easily, pumping his right leg multiple times to put a good amount of distance between us. After a few minutes, I started to feel a slight cramp forming under the right side of my ribcage. It was minor, but it immediately sent my mind into overdrive, making the idea of quitting extremely attractive. Just then, the boy turned back to look at me, to—I assume—see if I was still running. I took a deep breath in and out, trying to work through the cramp, determined not to let him see me quit. Why this mattered so much to me, I did not know. I didn’t know this boy, I had nothing to prove to him, but I couldn’t stand the thought of “failing” in front of him.
I ran behind him for a while and watched him continue to turn back and look at me. At some points he would step off his board and carry it, allowing me to gain ground on him, and sometimes I thought I might pass him, but he always seemed to sense when I was getting close—probably because of my blaring pop music and loud mouth breathing (I know, I’m a really cute runner)—and he would set down his board and draw farther ahead.
As we drew closer to a large intersection, I could tell that he was getting tired. The breaks between boarding and walking became more frequent and his looks back were almost every other minute. That’s when I realized that it was not he who was challenging me to keep going, but rather me challenging him. Whatever the reason, whether for pride or pure motivation, his backward glances were to note the effort I was putting in so he could try and match it. Similar to my thoughts on him, he had no relation to me or any reason why he had to keep moving, and I wouldn’t have thought any more or less of him if he stopped moving or skated forever. But there was something about me, about my actions that were motivating him to challenge himself.
We have a lot of influence on each other, whether we know it or not, and I think it is important, especially in today’s society to remember the value in our unique ability to do so. It is easy to script our actions to fulfill the wishes we assume are being made by others, but that doesn’t benefit anyone, including the one we initially set out to impress. We are much more likely to inspire others when we do things on our own accord, to challenge our own willpower.
When I got back from my run, I found myself thinking a lot about the way the boy kept looking back and I decided to use it as a motivating factor from this point forward. I think that we can often misconstrue a look as a judgment or a negative opinion, but maybe, just maybe that look is one of awe and inspiration.
Is she still going? Wow. Maybe I can keep going too.