beyond the stats.

The day one calendar replaces another is the day runners knee-jerkingly tally the numbers and report their statistics.

I'm a runner (I think), so here's my look back at 2014.

Mileage:  ?
Vertical Gain:  ?
Number of Summits:  ?
Finishes:  ?

Ultrarunners in particular love to tout the lessons that long-distance running doles out.  There's even a commonly held belief that the range of emotions, the physical highs and lows reached while covering 50-100 miles in a single day is nearly a condensed lifetime unto itself.


Or, more likely, it's just a more-than-a-normal-single-day experience.  To be fair, that's quite a lot and I don't mean to scoff so much as to maybe dial down the answers-to-everything mythos.

As an aside:  I sometimes wonder if there's an abstract math equation to prove that the degree to which a runner (or some other pick-the-sport athlete) holds up the tutorial aspects of her or his running (swimming, baseball hitting, pole vaulting, hot dog eating, etc.) is directly relative to how much he or she is ignoring or denying the factual lessons of real life.

I share those things I think I've learned through running with my children and feel quite certain that the love and respect of the outdoors that is the real impetus for my being out on the trails has impacted them and made them aware of the fact that there is magic in the natural world not equaled or matched by virtual reproductions or distractions.  After that, my favorite hobby takes a backseat to other realities in terms of bestowing wisdom (have I any). 

Which brings me to a Target parking lot a few weeks ago.

Lily and Piper Bea had accompanied me on (for me) a brave venture into the teeth of holiday retail madness.  We had knocked out the last of our gift gathering and for the most part avoided any of the mine-mine-mine consumer conflict the mass media is all too happy to report.  Said conflict is surprisingly easy to avoid if you don't yourself feel entitled to, well, everything.

We'd walked in with smiles and we walked out with smiles, an admittedly minor miracle on my part as I tend to be all too on-the-watch for reasons to be disappointed in humanity on shopping excursions.  Shame on me for such a mindset and perhaps writing this post is yet another lesson learned.

As we steered out of our aisle and passed by the other stores in the shopping center, I noticed an elderly woman approaching a crosswalk on a motorized grocery cart.  I coasted into a stop well ahead of the crosswalk and gently waved the woman across with my biggest of neighborly smiles.

She grimaced in my direction and pulled one hand off the steering column to gesture towards the ground as though demanding me to stop.  I had already stopped.  I was stopped, smiling, and patiently waiting for her to cross.

The furrow on her brow deepened and she wagged a pointed finger at me before repeating her "slow down" gesturing.

Stunned, I felt my smile melt into a confused gape, my gentle waving turning into a frustrated shrug and a sweeping arm pleading for the woman to "cross the road already".

Exasperated, the woman shook her head accusingly from side to side and inched into the crosswalk.  As she and her cart crept by in front of our car, she continued to cast annoyed glances at me while muttering to herself.

I began to roll down my window with the intent of explaining to the woman that I had been stopped all along and had been happily intent on giving her the opportunity to cross safely.  Before I could say a word, she reached the other side, threw both of her hands in the air, and thrust them at me in a manner that made it clear I was being dismissed.

Remembering that the girls were in the backseat and recognizing that what was about to come out of my mouth was going to be something quite inappropriate, I rolled the window up and moved along.

"Girls, I just don't understand why people assume the worst.  I really do believe that, deep down, we are all good people and mean to treat each other fairly.  It's a real shame that we lose sight of that so often and that a joyous time like Christmas can actually cause us to be less nice, not nicer."

A peek in the rear view mirror revealed that my daughters were actually hanging on my words while looking curiously at the woman.

I continued spelling out how that woman had jumped to conclusions without even considering that....

just then a man stepped out in front of us waving his arms with an unmistakable urgency.

I slammed on the brakes, wondering what the hell was going on now and finding the want to escape the parking lot jumping to the top of my holiday wish list.

The man stepped to the front passenger window and I rolled it down to find out the nature of his flagging us down.

"Your headlights aren't on," came through the open window with a warmth that made me immediately appreciative and thoroughly embarrassed at my own assumptions.  My rescuer began to walk away from our vehicle, stopped, turned back to the open window and smiled a "Happy Holidays to all of you" before returning to his errand and vanishing into the store.

By the time I repositioned my dropped jaw and processed my having moments before teetered on the brink of yelling at an elderly, mobility-challenged woman who was trying to alert me to the fact that I needed to turn on my lights, there was no sign of her and any opportunity to apologize and thank her had been lost.  We drove around the parking lot for a few minutes making certain that she truly had gone.  Guiltily, I explained to the girls the mistake that I had made and asked them to forgive me for my having been so hypocritical.

"You are good, Daddy.  You are mostly nice to people."  So said my tell-it-like-it-is daughter, Piper Bea.

Any respectable recap needs a stating of future goals, right?  I actually don't know if that's right, but let's agree that it is.

So, here goes:

2015 Goals:  Be good, be nice.  Good-er and nicer than the day and years before.  Heed every lesson not just those imparted while wearing a race bib.

Everything else'll figure itself out.  Always has, always will whether I run 1 mile or 10,000, stand atop a mountain or don't, finish every race or fail to even start a single one.

Do glad.  Be nice.  Be good for goodness sake.