When What Motivates You Also Breaks Your Heart

This morning was packed with an accomplishment and a letdown. I decided to run downtown, a route I don’t take often. Maybe 20 times a year, and I usually run every day. About four years ago, it was a part of my running routine, and I ran there at least one day every week.

Stretching out alongside the river and finding a stride is one of the best feelings. I even enjoy climbing the stairs up the bridge, skipping them two at a time. Crossing over traffic on the pedestrian bridge, I noticed a homeless person sleeping under a blanket on the corner of the bridge.

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I climbed the next hill, skipping steps, and ran in front of and behind the city offices, the police station, across an old train trestle to view the courthouse rising up on the hill to my left and the river rolling along between the fields and forests to my right. Up Dog Hill, where I lived as a college student, and that old 1840s house where my boyfriend camped out in the vines was razed a decade ago–I reminisce and run faster. See a feather on the sidewalk and pick it up.

At the end of another train trestle, the trees are tall and thick as I look out over what was once called “Gallows Hollow” and, though I can’t see them, I listen for an instant to children laugh and play on the playground in the distance. I’m happy about how time changes some places. I turn back and cover the same route.

When I pass the homeless person, I see a woman, and she’s skinny. I run harder and faster than ever before. I do the whole route one more time, to see if she’s breathing. I hone in on her as I pass by. She sleeps and the blanket rises and falls slightly. I run faster and harder– my brain working and pushing me. I make a decision: I will get her some food and leave it beside her.

I stop at the car, check my time and distance. First realization–amazed! Shock. I have set a personal record and ran faster than I ever believed possible for myself. I call my husband. Ask him the time. He asks, “Did you already finish your run?” I always call him before I begin. Confirmation.

Almost forgot why I ran so fast as I drive away from the river. When I see the Arby’s, I remember and pull into the drive thru. With the food and drink, I return to the river and park close to the bridge. I run very lightly up the stairs and across the bridge, but she is gone. I look around on the other side, down along the road, to see if she’s walking close by, and I don’t see her anywhere. She is gone. I return to the parking area, cover the route again, but I don’t find her. Due to a meat allergy, I can’t eat the food myself. Second realization–devastated.

The woman was my motivation to run so much faster than usual and as a result, I received a huge realization about how hard I have trained my body to run. But, and this trumped everything, I didn’t get to accomplish my mission, and that felt devastating. I will go back, and if she’s still on the streets, I hope to help her, but my biggest hope is that she won’t be on the street anymore.

There is an effort to open a homeless shelter in the town where I live. Please, help Manna Cafe to accomplish the goal of giving people a safe place to go and rest their bodies.

P.S. (Adding this as an afterthought): I usually keep care packets in my car (ziplock bags of toiletries, food gift certificates, etc.), but I ran out of them about three weeks ago when it was so hot, and that was one reason for my dilemma about how to help her. 

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