This I Believe

Dallas - Cookeville, Tennessee
Entered on August 16, 2006
Age Group: 65+

I Believe in Running

We sit around a long table in a restaurant on Nashville’s music row, the place where they make the hits. There are five women and seven men, eating, drinking, talking. A meeting is in progress.

Susan called this meeting. She and her boyfriend, Hal, are nursing over-use injuries, which curtails their daily running. They miss seeing their training buddies. Susan decided why not get together anyway.

And here we are.

I believe in running.

Albino, a member of their group, invited me. I don’t know several here. But there’s an instant friendly connection between runners.

Originally from Spain, Albino, 33, is the youngest at the table; at 64, I am easily the oldest.

Hal, a music publisher originally from Oklahoma, sits at mid table. At his side is Susan, an intense Connecticut Yankee, educated in Florida.

Past Hal sits Stan, a songwriter from Massachusetts who seems always at ease. The surface calm veils the fire in his poet’s heart.

Altogether, a dozen runners raise a roaring good time. Teasing questions and snappy answers fly back and forth; stories spin out.

Lu is from Vietnam; he smiles easily. He was seven years old when Saigon fell. If growing up in that ravaged country left a scar, you won’t see it in his smile.

“The war scattered everyone,” he says pleasantly.

Lu has come to the party with Luz Maria, a 33-year old engineer from Mexico. She runs a blazing marathon.

Tammy, an engaging woman from rural Tennessee, is telling Susan and me a wickedly funny story about how she met her Tunisian boyfriend.

The man from Tunisia strokes his chin and smiles shyly. He speaks several languages, but he’d never had a chance. The woman from Tennessee reeled him in like a largemouth bass.

Only one person admits being a Nashville native.

Suddenly I realize something: These twelve humans come from places strewn around the globe. Five countries! Four continents!

This group shatters every boundary of culture, religion, politics and geography. Backgrounds vary from urban to rural, from aristocratic to red-dirt poor. Some are Catholic; I can estimate a Muslim, a Buddhist and maybe a backsliding Baptist. And who knows what else?

And who cares? No one seems to notice. Despite all the walls erected by politics, religion, and even tectonic plates, we’ve found each other.

These friends were brought together by the sport of running, by Susan and Hal reaching out to their training pals. In this, I find reason for hope. The most basic of all athletic skills has trumped all the hateful bugaboos contrived through the ages.

I believe in running.

It can’t stop war. It can’t reverse melting of the Arctic ice shelf or stop the dogwoods from dying. It can’t prevent world hunger or cure HIV.

Running can’t save the world.

But on this Saturday night it has brought together a dozen souls in a harmony of friendship, joy, and even love.

And that’s enough.