Running During a Pandemic: What I Learned From a Little Girl

With my head completely cluttered from the latest news and predictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, I tied my sneakers and headed out the door. I needed to run.

My feet settled into a rhythm as I zoned out to the podcast in my ears. I was hearing the sound, but not listening or even attempting to comprehend it. Digesting information is not possible when your mind is overwhelmed.

Continuing down the road, there was no enjoyment nor discomfort. I was numb and content to remain that way until the run was over. A few miles of meaningless exertion would be my escape for the day and it was exactly what I longed for, or so I thought.

Suddenly, a noise interrupted my fog. It was a child’s voice. I paused my podcast to listen. It was a girl. Was she screaming? With each step, the voice grew louder. No, she wasn’t screaming. She was singing!

Immediately, a flashback engulfed me. I remembered myself as a young girl sitting outside on the handmade rope swing that hung from a tree in our back yard. As I pumped my legs back and forth, I sang my favorite songs. What was it that I sang the most? As I ran, I tried to think back and recall. Oh yeah, it was the theme song from Sesame Street. Over and over, I would sing that song as well as some others. Out there by myself on the swing, I was in my own blissful world. The combination of singing and swinging was my escape back then and I loved it.

As my steps grew closer to the girl’s proximity, I was surprised by her volume. I didn’t recognize the song, but she was singing it with gusto. Then, I saw her and I could not contain my grin. Just like my former self, she was singing while sitting on a swing in her back yard.

When the girl noticed me on the road, she lowered her volume. I felt bad for having interrupted her concert, but a few seconds later she was at full volume again. As I continued down the road, I thought about the girl. She was singing just to sing, completely present in the moment and fully enjoying it. She wasn’t consumed with worry about the pandemic, school closures, not seeing her friends, or a lack of food and supplies. She was just swinging and singing. At once, I knew there was a lesson there.

What was I doing? Was I fully present? No. Was I enjoying the little moments? No. Was I engaging in activities that made me happy? Not exactly. Sure, I was running, but I was running to escape the world and not running to experience it.

Running can bring a feeling of happiness if I let it, but I have to consciously and consistently make that choice. I can choose to take in the sights, sounds, and smells around me, relax, and enjoy the run or, I can just go through the motions. I may not be that same little girl of my childhood singing her heart out on a swing in her back yard, but she is still part of me. She knew how to surrender to the moment and I can too.

Worry doesn’t need to consume us. The day will pass on its own whether we worry or not. We have no control over the pandemic or anything else. The only thing that we can control is how we choose to respond.  

I am thankful for that singing girl. She reminded me that life is too short to forget about embracing and enjoying the little moments, even when those moments happen to be during a pandemic. May we all learn to appreciate each moment for the special gift that it is, and live it to its fullest.

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