I’m a bit of a runner and on weekends I enjoy a longer run. This summer my runs have been along an abandoned railway trail that runs through farmer’s fields, bush and forest between Manotick and Osgoode. My runs are what runner’s call “out and backs”. That’s code for you run to a point and return along the same way – as opposed to a circuit. It’s a beautiful trail. That path gets used by dog walkers, bikers and runners. Some are out for a leisurely walk; others are pedaling hard enjoying a vigorous workout. But I always enjoy seeing another runner on the trail. Often, because it’s an out and back, I will pass someone twice doing the same thing.
It’s my goal that I say hi to everyone that is traveling towards me and who I pass. My greeting is sometimes a clear “good morning” and other times it’s a weary wave with one hand. The other thing is that I don’t wear my glasses, so who or what is approaching me in not always immediately clear.
Last Sunday on my long run I passed a young man who was running at a significant pace. He looked like he was in shape with big strong legs. He was running faster than me for sure. I gave him a wave and I got a wave in return. I wondered, was he out for a long run? If he can keep up that pace that’s impressive. Maybe it was just a short quick run – not so impressive, but better than me. Thoughts running through my mind.
On the return portion of my run, I was thinking about the young spry lad. Would I see him again on his return or was he home by now? Well, it was quite a while into my return that I decided he was home and I wouldn’t be seeing him again today. When out of my blurry vision the young lad appears, still with a very good pace. I was pushing myself by now, heart rate up, breathing laboured, so I didn’t trust my voice, but I wanted to give him some encouragement and so I clapped my hands as he was approaching. Just as we pass, he says clearly “good running!”.
All of a sudden, like a shot of friendly adrenalin, energy runs into my legs and my whole body. It’s similar to the sensation when your hair stands on end. I’m shocked at how my body responded to his encouragement. I straightened up and my legs felt light again. As I ran on, I wondered if he experienced something similar to my cheer?
As I think about this, I can clearly remember who and when someone gave me a word of encouragement while running these trails. These short little connections I’ve had with people I don’t know. They put gas in my tank. Amazing.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad (Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Brigham Young University) has done some research around what factors in our lives contribute to longer life expectancy. Here is some of what she found:
Light predictors: clean air, hypertension treated, lean and not overweight, exercise
Moderate predictors: cardiac rehab, taking the flu vaccine, quit smoking or boozing.
High predictors: close relationships, (this was the highest) was social interactions.
Social interactions are defined as the quick interactions we have with people we know and don’t know all throughout our day. Do you say “hi” to the coffee barista taking a quick interest in their life? The person who checks your groceries, the people you pass as you walk in your neighbourhood? Those who have these types of social interactions are people who tend to live longer.
We have such an advantage with our Christian faith. Built into and throughout it is this encouragement to connect. We are exhorted and empowered to love people – even our enemies. I know it’s more of a challenge during the COVID season, but it seems all the more relevant. Let’s look for those opportunities for little, quick interactions.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25