A Word in Season

One of my favorite runs takes me up into the hilly farmland surrounding my home. There is a lake, grazing cows, and the organic smell of manure and soil. I run past farmhouses and through small villages, where the ambient sounds are cow bells and the occasional rooster’s crow. Sometimes a few cars will pass by, but the stillness is rarely broken by anything but my own two feet.

I don’t see people too often on that run, and I like it that way. I am very comfortable keeping my own company, but sometimes a training run can become so long that my thoughts start to loop, like a broken record. I usually get stuck on this hurts, or why am I doing this, and most often dear lord, is this almost over?

I run a six mile loop, and on one of my longest runs, I ran past the same home three times. On my third pass, when I was seriously considering running as a form of mental illness, a man popped out from behind the bush he was trimming and waved. He held up his fingers to indicate “three” and said “Three times! Bravo, Bravo!” I waved, breathed a heavy “Ja, Danke”, and kept moving. My legs were dead tired, but his words lifted and carried me those remaining miles. I couldn’t stop smiling. 
I thought of that run this morning. I thought about how a few words might be all someone needs to be lifted and carried through a rough patch. A simple “Bravo!” from a stranger meant more to me than any drawn out discussion with my running buddies about mileage, weather conditions, or knee pain. It didn’t matter that we were strangers, that we speak a different language, or that I was about to puke from the effort and was definitely not feeling ‘bravo’. What mattered was that he spoke a kind word, an encouraging word, exactly when I needed it. 
I hope I can do the same.


  • Amy

    How delightful! My husband is a runner, and when training for a marathon once I remember a neighbor calling to ask me if he was okay since they kept seeing him run past our block again.

    I like to find time for tea as well. . .

    I’ve been to your neck of the woods, but it’s been a couple of decades ago. So I think I’ll follow you and get to enjoy it again a bit. Thanks:)

  • JJ

    ‎”Be kinder than necessary,
    for everyone you meet is fighting
    some kind of battle.”
    — T.H. Thompson and John Watson

    Your post made me think of this!

  • I can picture the man shouting Bravo! I love that show of encouragement and support instead of criticism or viewing you as an oddity.

    Your concluding reflection reminds me of an article at TheHighCalling.org by Emily Wierenga. She wrote a series on anorexia and cites a female runner and her smile as one of the moments that impacted her during one of her lowest points.

    Here’s the link, if you’re curious–but I provide it to encourage you that the big smile on your face as you run may be encouraging others, just as the gentleman encouraged you. It goes both ways! 🙂