I first saw Roger last winter, but I didn’t yet know his name. I was running down a hilly, country road on a snowy, winter day. He was out walking his dog. As, I passed him, he broke into a big smile, waved and said, “Be careful! That hill up there is slippery!”
“Thanks!” I returned the smile and wave without breaking stride and went on my way.
I have since passed him walking his dog multiple times on my runs down this same country road. We exchange quick pleasantries as I pass by, yet I never stopped to talk with him, and I still didn’t know his name.
Last spring, I was on 25 mile long run training for a 50k. I had a hydration pack on my back so it was clear I was out for the long haul. I passed Roger working in his yard. (Ahhh, that’s where he lives. Still don’t know his name). He called out and asked if I was training for anything. I slowed to a jog, told him what race it was, and he instantly had “the look.” (the faraway glaze to the eyes and smile that lights the face when the subject of running is brought up to a fellow runner). Right then, I knew he was a runner. I didn’t stop, though. I was far enough into my run to know my legs would instantly stiffen if I stopped, so we exchanged our usual smile and I moved on.
Just the other day, I ran by his home to find him shoveling in his yard. Without even thinking about it, I found myself stopped and asking, “Are you a runner?”
“Oh, yes! (and there was “the look”) I’ve run lots of 1/2 marathons. But, I’m 70 now. You will learn this over time. You will deal with injuries. I’ve had my share, so I do lots of 5ks now.” He went on to tell me of how he tore a bicep tendon lifting a lamb, he’s had plenty of knee issues and also trouble with his Achilles and bone spurs. For these ailments, he’s visited a number of orthopedic surgeons, who all told him he had to quit running. So what does any runner do in the face of this situation? Find another doctor.
Roger is no slouch. He is tall and slim with square sturdy shoulders. Heck, I saw him shoveling, and I’ve seen him go up and down slippery, snowy hills walking his dog. But the doctors wanted him to stay home where it was safe and he wouldn’t get hurt again. Maybe he would prevent further injury by doing so, but that was no life for Roger. So, Roger moved on and on and on until finally, he met the right doc in Chelsea.
This doctor asked Roger questions to get to know him and his lifestyle. There was a surgery he could perform that would help. Roger asked when. The doc said tomorrow at 7AM. Roger replied he’d be there ready at 6AM.
Then, just as the doc was leaving the room, he made a side comment to his nurse practitioner that he would rather have 1000 Rogers over those who do not do the work of their physical therapy, yet complain they just can’t get better.
Roger, he is my kind of people. I don’t know what compelled me to stop that day, but I’m sure glad I did. Yes, my legs were like stiff boards when I started to run again, but I felt lighter and lifted by his drive and passion in pursuing options to live what he loves.
It’s the Rogers of the world that remind us that there are always, always options if we look hard enough and want it enough. The option may be moving from a 1/2 marathon to a 5k, but that is still a long way from spending your life safe on the couch.
When I am running the snowy, slippery roads of life, its the Rogers of this world that I want in my corner. They would never tell me to pack up, go home and stay on the couch where it’s safe. Oh, no, no, no. They care enough to share that it’s slippery ahead, be careful, then send me on my very own way with a hearty smile and a wave, fully knowing the thrill of living your love always outweighs the fear of the fall.