How Running Became About More Than Fitness to Me

How Running Became About More Than Fitness to Me

Gripping many of the cities across our great country right now are the cold temperatures associated with winter. Though I may not feel it currently in my new home of Bonita Beach, Florida—where the average daily temperature for the past few months have fallen sublimely in the mid-80s—I am reminded of the 5 years I spent in Charlotte, North Carolina during my post-graduate life, starting out in the working world as a young professional.

One of my favorite hobbies and ways to exercise was running. I had always been a sprinter when running before, so I challenged myself over the course of several years to build up some stamina, so that I could cover more distance and discover the city this way. I started my run from South End every day, and tried to run as close to Uptown as I could. As my run spanned further each day, I took notice of how many homeless there were in the city. The number was staggering and brought sorrow to my heart. I felt a tugging on my heart strings as I watched so many people with so little wander around the city.

As summer turned to fall and the leaves started to change, the cold weather came with it. My sympathy towards these wanderers grew. How could I help them? After all, I was doing my best at the time to rub two pennies together to make ends meet with my entry level position at ESPN, so I couldn’t offer anything worth much of monetary value. I had already begun to volunteer at the homeless shelters serving lunch, but I wanted to do more.

As fall turned to winter, I had to gear-up even more to face the harsh winds while running—the kind of winds that turn your nose and ears red and make your hands ache. I was determined to keep running so I went to Walmart and purchased the $1 pair of gloves, with two sets in a pack, for my run each day. Any runner can attest that as you get that blood pumping, eventually all the layers you put on pre-run seem a bit like overkill, and you wish you would have left a few of them at home. I started to wish at some points, with sweaty hands, I hadn’t brought my gloves along with me. Then something occurred to me one day as I passed a group of homeless. This is how I can help—I’m going to warm the hands of the homeless during the wintry season.

I felt a tugging on my heart strings as I watched so many people with so little wander around the city.

So each week on “Pay Day” I would go to Walmart or Target, and buy $10 worth of the gloves, 20 total. Each day when I would gear up for my run, I would double-up on the gloves. As I passed a man or woman on the street who seemed to be frozen to the park bench they were sitting on, I would offer them my gloves, which they would gladly accept. Some mornings I would not pass anyone and think to myself, “What a waste! I wanted to give these to someone who needed them!” So again it occurred to me that I can do more! I started to write little paper notes and stick them in the key pocket of my running pants. That way, if I made it all the way uptown and hadn’t passed anyone who might need them, I could leave them on a bench somewhere uptown with a little note that read, “These gloves are not lost, but left for someone who needs to warm their chilly hands. God bless.”

This ritual became one of the reasons for my running. It drove me to get further into the city, so that I could reach as many cold hands as possible. To take it a step further, I challenged my fellow runners through social media to do the same. I never really knew where the gloves ended up, but I knew God would put them on hands that needed them.

All this being said, if we take the time to consider how we can incorporate kindness and generosity into our daily routines, paths will be shown to us. We have to listen, and sometimes, the path shown to us will surprise us. I never thought of gloves being used as a way to love others, but it was one of the most rewarding times of my life.

Though I’m not able to donate gloves during this winter season, I search each day for ways that I can benefit others in my day-to-day routine. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the next chapter of my life. Being able to help others made my exercise all the more fulfilling. I know I was being used for the good of others, and I know I will continue to be used if I maintain a willing and open heart.

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