by Melissa Brunner
Sometimes we grow up and forget that running in the fresh air, wind at our back (or in our face!), sun shining down (or racing through raindrops!), is supposed to be fun. Slowly rehabbing from an injury can make you feel frustrated rather than free. But two things happened to me this week that reminded me of the sheer joy of moving.
The first was bright and early Tuesday morning. I was asked to join in the first leg of the Topeka-area officers route in the Kansas Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Gathering time - 6:45am at the Statehouse! Sleepiness quickly turned to smiles for me as I was able to visit with some of the athletes who'll compete in Wichita this weekend. They excitedly told me about their events and their friends. Several of them ran along with the flame as it began its journey. I settled in next to a young man and young lady. Both were determined to make it as far as they could. The plan for a couple blocks became nearly half the distance to the Expocentre! The run for me was better because I experienced it with them.
The next day, I visited via satellite with Jim Ryun. Thursday marked 50 years since he became the first high schooler to break the four-minute barrier for the mile. Many people today know him only as a former Congressman and don't realize what an important figure he is in sports history and how much he meant to middle distance running in its heyday. Here is a man who was obviously gifted with great physical talent, and, as interesting as it was to hear about those races and how they changed his life, it was equally interesting to hear him echo similar feelings to those that arise from being around the Special Olympians. The losses, Ryun says, make you realize what the wins are all about. They help you appreciate them and accept them with humility. Asked whether the fact running isn't as lucrative a career as other professional sports might be a detriment to participation, Ryun said he didn't believe so. He says he sees young people still driven by a dream, who still want to see just how much they can push themselves and how fast or far the human body can go.
It is the joy of the movement. It doesn't matter whether it's three blocks or a mile or a marathon. And it doesn't matter if it takes four minutes or four hours to get there.
It's the joy. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.