Today, as I drove past Como Lake Park at 2 p.m., a steady rain was on the cusp of changing to snow. Como Lake is the place I’ve done many of my twice-weekly 5K runs since being told after my second knee surgery, in January 2011, that I couldn’t run anymore.
Today, I looked at the lake and reflected that I had absolutely no desire to be running out there. This in spite of the fact that I haven’t been able to jog a step since my knee got worse almost a month ago. But that’s not what this post is about.
As I drove north past the lake I saw a familiar figure crossing Como Lake Avenue. It was a man of indeterminate age (not old), shuffling at a snail’s pace with the aid of a walker.
I recognized him because he’s always on the trail at Como Lake when I go there to run at 7 or 8 in the morning. He always wears the same outfit, winter or summer; jeans, long-sleeved shirt, (plus jacket in the winter) and a big orange safety vest.
He is severely disabled. In the time it takes me to jog around the one-kilometre lake trail five times, he doesn’t come close to completing one circle.
Each time I run at Como Lake, I make sure I say “hello” or “good morning” to him at least once. He always responds with a broad smile, and says something that sounds like “Hiyyyyyyyyy” very loudly.
Sometimes when I’m running I think how pitiful it is that I have to run at this safe place, where the ground is soft and level, and the path is often busy with old people from the seniors’ home across the street. I’m still obsessively timing my laps, so I know that my first one has to be very slow, maybe a 5:45 kilometre, and then if my knee is having a good day I might be able to gradually speed up to a 4:30/km pace for the last lap or two.
But when I see this man in the orange vest, I think instead how wonderful it is that I can be outside, breathing the fresh cold air deeply, lungs/heart/blood 100% good and strong, body 100% healthy except for one little wrecked knee joint. If I’m lucky I’ll feel like I’m galloping on the trail by the end, devouring that path under my feet, still filled with the joy of running.
But today he’s the one who’ll be out there on the trail, not me. He must go out twice a day to tread his path around the lake. He’s a warrior for sure.