Anybody who knows me knows that I love it when stories from the world of distance running resonate with daily life. And, in particular, I find it compelling when such stories emerge from ordinary people doing extraordinary things. So, it is not surprising that I have been intrigued by the story that emerged out of Ohio earlier this week in which a high school track runner, competing in the State Championship Meet, stopped with about 25 meters to go to assist a fallen competitor across the finish line.
Never mind the rules, this action is, to me, truly inspiring. Here’s a high school distance runner, on the last lap of a grueling two-mile race, who, apparently, acting on instinct and simple human goodness, did the right thing.
When the story broke, I was initially surprised, then awed, and, finally, humbled. Having spent a good part of my adult life around youth sports in general, and track in particular, I have come to realize that there is a certain cutthroat aspect to it, especially at the State High School level, that runs counter to this particular story. I know nothing of the runners involved nor do I have a grasp of the circumstances that impelled this one young runner to do what she did. What I do know is that this apparent instinctual act to help a fellow human being in a time in need is something we can all learn from.
And, it is something, I think, that makes our sport different, and I would argue, better than most. Furthermore, in this time of great need for compassion in the world, it provides a simple lesson to us all.
You see, running is something humans do because we want to and we have to. For centuries, running has been something that has separated us from others, but also connected us to others. This basically solitary act can be at once communitarian and independent. It can take us far away and bring us closer together. But it is the environment of running, the place that we inhabit when we are engaged in the actual act, that I believe, transforms us and brings us back to a place where instinctual behavior, and perhaps, ultimately, basic human goodness, trumps all.
I, for one, like to think that the young runner who stopped to help her fallen competitor to the finish line in the Ohio State track meet didn’t do so because it was something she wanted to do or even something she had been trained to do but rather, she did what she did because it was simply what she had to do. It was something that was so essential to her being as a person and as a runner (and, I would imagine in this case, and in many others, the two are indistinguishable) that she simply did it because it had to be done.
As much as running makes us free, it also makes us responsible, respectful, honest, and clear.
I hope the next time I see someone in need my instincts kick in the same way they did on that sultry Ohio track last weekend. It’s the kind of thing that would make me a better person and may just be a small step toward making the world a better place.
AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Nick Clark’s hometown of Fort Collins, CO. New Belgium Brewery’s Shift Pale Lager has recently been introduced across the country in tidy 16-ounce cans and I must say it’s a nice beer. 5% ABV and a nice touch of hops makes this beer eminently drinkable. That said, a four-pack on the River on a warm June evening is about all you’d need. :-)
PS. I would like to ask the readers of AJW’s Taproom to send in their nominations for the Beer of the Week for Western States Weekend. I have my pick all set for next Friday, but I’d like to go with a “Reader’s Choice Awards” type format for the Taproom Column that will immediately precede Western States on June 20th.
So, here’s the way it will work:
Send me your nominations for Western States Beer of the Week to: firstname.lastname@example.org by next Wednesday, June 13th and I will collect the nominations for voting in next Friday’s column. The winning beer will be announced in the June 20th column and we’ll send some iRunFar swag to the winner.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Have you ever seen a runner helping another competitor in need during a race?
- When is it acceptable and when is it unacceptable to render unplanned aid to a fellow competitor?