On Sunday, I will be participating for the third time in the O.C. Half Marathon. I enter one race a year to keep myself in the game.
Earlier this week, I ran by a bus stop and heard one man say to another, "There is a marathon this weekend. That's why everyone is running."
It made me laugh for some reason. Hearing snippets of conversations like that one is a highlight of running and reminds me why I stick with it.
My friend Jesse says that driving around in cars is like living in a bubble. We have our thoughts, our music and our own space. Things start to look the same — stoplights, stop signs, crosswalks, other cars. Our view narrows. We isolate ourselves.
But when you run, you see stuff and notice things. When you run far, you see lots of stuff.
When I run, I remember again what a beautiful place we live in. Running makes me pay attention to the seasons. Every year there are a few days in February when, running at Huntington Beach, I can see Catalina clearly on one side and snow-covered mountains on the other.
It's breathtaking and makes my heart sing. In the spring, I first notice the mustard and wildflowers when I'm running in the Back Bay. Sidewalk traffic heats up in the summer out at the Back Bay and on Superior Avenue. There are bikes and walkers, and I have to weave in and out of the beachgoers who are out to enjoy slowing down.
I always laugh when the time changes and it's dark again in the mornings. The traffic slows and the streets thin out to the few diehards.
When I run, I remember people who have impacted my life and history in Costa Mesa. My daily running route takes me by Taco Mesa's old office, Cla-Val, and the old Job Center.
As I run, I pray for the people in these places who have supported me and helped our community. I pray that they would have wisdom and provision and imagination. I run by Hoag and SOS and pray for healing and hope and miracles.
The end of my run usually coincides with the kids in our neighborhood getting on the bus. We have fallen into the routine of kids petting my dog while I greet the moms. Family news is briefly shared and encouragements shouted to the kids, such as, "Have a good day. Work hard. Play well."
Running gets me out to connect with my neighbors.
Running also connects me with the people I am close to. Some of my deepest friendships have developed while running
Somewhere around mile six you run out of pleasantries and general updates, and either run in silence or dive into deeper heart issues. Currently I run with my roommate. We see each other all the time, but it is on our runs that I hear what is truly happening in her life.
My running friends and I have worked through relationship hurts, addictions, big decisions, career choices, faith questions and our pesky pasts. Running gives us the time, space and strength to pound it out.
So on Sunday, as you deal with road closures and delays from the OC Marathon, don't think of it as a bunch of crazed athletes out to prove something by hogging the road. Think of it as a brief gathering of your neighbors who have chosen to slow down, look around and dive into the beauty around and within.
Come out, cheer them on.
Cheer on vision. Cheer on connection. Cheer on clear minds and strong bodies. Cheer on new views.
CRISSY BROOKS is executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.