The running club filed into the school basement. What had their coach in store for them now? They were used to his springing new drills on them and urging them to stretch themselves both literally and figuratively. He believed each of them could be more than they imagined.
Tonight was beyond the usual, even for him. He’d brought a guest speaker to assist them in defining what running meant to each of them. “A little too touchy-feely for me,” mumbled one of the runners, even as he folded his thin legs around a folding chair. “Yeah, let’s just get on with running; aren’t we down for 800s?” asked an intense woman bouncing on her toes.
Just then coach walked to the front of the room with a small, cherubic man hurrying to keep pace. The stranger wore loose clothing and large, sturdy sandals that looked as if they were repurposed tires. With a few words, coach introduced their speaker, who began by getting directly to the point.
“You are runners, as am I, and I am merely going to ask you a few questions. You must keep up with me by using your imagination. Let it run free. You must first put yourself in the frame of mind that I am here as a negotiator for a powerful being.” He paused, smiled at us, and clapped his hands. “Second premise is you have all just lost the ability to run.”
A murmur went around the room that the speaker quelled by continuing to speak. “Now I am going to bargain with you to see what you will sacrifice to get your running ability back. Anyone first who does not want to bargain?” Several of the triathletes, joined by some of the runners who ran for exercise, stood. They said they’d be happy riding their bikes, swimming, skiing, and other pursuits. Some of the exercisers were downright thrilled, as running was something they didn’t enjoy, but suffered through.
“Who will give up some portion of their income for the rest of their lives in order to be able to run again? Stay seated if you agree.” Again, some of the members stood and joined the non-bargainers. The rest of us remained, our full attention on the smiling gentleman with the rapid delivery.
“What about your vices; you are runners, you don’t smoke, but alcohol, unhealthy food, and those things you do but know you should not, like gossiping and using the social media too much?” Quite a few now rose and left their seats.
“That leaves pride and anger. What if I say you can run, but if you cannot dispense with conceit in your medals and trophies, and lay aside your ire when you don’t perform as well you would like, then you, too, must relinquish running.”
As we avoided each other’s eyes, slowly scraping our chairs, a chuckle escaped the speaker’s lips. He smiled at us while motioning us to sit. “You who love running, see that it is a gift, and worth sacrifice. Also, be mindful to appreciate what you have, before it becomes what you had.” He clapped his hands once more, and was gone.