It was spitting outside, a term my mother used when I was young and the rain was so scant that you couldn’t see it falling.
While spit may have a negative connotation to you, this was the angels spitting, and so the drops were holy water.
I began my run with angels’ spit on my glasses.
It was early on a Sunday morning, and I shuffled in front of Westminster High School, my car parked in the empty lot behind me. If the run went as planned, I’d be doing ten miles, looping around the grounds that connected the high school with the YMCA.
The sun was covered by the hovering clouds and the air was humid. I was glad to be out before the day heated up.
I made my way around the far side of the school and then over to the track. On the first lap my Garmin watch buzzed, and I knew one mile was behind me. I didn’t look at the watch.
I loped around the track for a while, my stride slowly beginning to move freely.
Thirty-six years before, my parents would have been in the stadium stands watching me run some of my final races as a South Carroll senior.
By then, they had taught me much of the wisdom I rely on today, and most of it can be summed up in the idioms they would use.
I never remember my mother loosing her patience. I never remember her yelling. She simply repeated phrases that held the wisdom of the ages.
When I was impatient she’d say, “Hold your horses.” When I was fixated on something, she’d say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” In time, I got the messages.
I finished my laps around the track and ran onto the grass of the school yard. The drizzle had stopped by the time I reached Washington Road, and I stayed on the grass as I went by Robert Moton Elementary and onto the grounds of the community college.
My father encouraged me to go to college, but I never did, so I relied upon my early lessons as I began adulthood.
Once, after I had stayed home sick from school, he came into my bedroom at the end of the day. It was the third time in as many weeks that I had stayed home, and there may have been some embellishment when I described how sick I was feeling.
He sat on the side of my bed and, for the first time, told me the story about the boy who cried wolf. I wasn’t sick for the rest of that school year.
After my final county track meet, there was a picture in the newspaper. My arms were raised as I broke the tape. When I came home from school that day, I saw a note from my father before I saw the picture. “Dave,” he wrote, “There’s an old saying that one picture can speak a thousand words. This one does.” I still have the note.
I ran onto the grounds of the YMCA where a gravel path circles the grounds. By then, I was trying to remember all the old sayings my parents used. I remember learning that I should never “judge a book by its cover” and not to “count your chickens before they hatch.”
There were times when my faith was restored when I realized that a disappointment could be “a blessing in disguise.”
As I ran the final loop around the gravel path, my watch buzzed for the eighth time. I left the path and began running back towards my car.
I don’t know how many miles I’ve run over the years, but I do know that most of what I’ve learned about life was reinforced while I was running them.
Running isn’t an avocation for the insincere. Talk won’t prepare you for any race. “Actions speak louder than words,” as my father would say.
And once a race is over, whether you achieved a goal or not, you should heed my mother’s advice and accept the outcome because, by then, “it’s water under the bridge.”
My legs were heavy in the final mile, but my pace was steady. I stopped just before I reached the car and then walked up to the door. There was a drop on the window, angel’s spit. I wiped it with my finger and smiled.
Some people will tell you that our life is defined by the choices we make, and that may be partly true. But once a choice is made, the eternal principles of life preside over it.
My parents spoke the truth and running made it clear. In this life you get what you pay for, nothing more. Invest heavily.