Running to the pub

This St. Patrick’s Day, my town wore green, dressed up like leprechauns, drank Guinness, and… ran a half marathon. 

I cheered them on. There is no way anyone can convince me to run a race, especially anything over a 5K. So I filled up water cups, clapped, rang cowbells, and hollered encouragement to these thousands of runners who had committed their St. Patrick’s Day morning to running 13.1 miles to raise money for our local homeless shelter.

After my volunteer shift was over, I headed downtown to the finish line. Dozens of my friends were down there, and we all enjoyed a pint together while we waited to hear the winners announced.

Halfway through my Guinness came my gratitude source for today. The race director called up his fiancee, who just so happens to be the volunteer coordinator of the homeless shelter that was the race’s beneficiary. In years past, the race had raised one or two thousand dollars for local non-profits. However, the race was recently listed in Runner’s World magazine, causing interest (and therefore race registrations) to spike. 

“I’ve got a check here for this great local charity,” the race director said, reaching behind him for an oversized foam check. “Looks like you all stepped up this year, because it’s for ten grand.”

His fiancee burst into tears, happy, happy tears for everything that money could do for the homeless families her organization serves in our town. The crowd went wild, and at least half of us had happy tears swimming in our eyes as well.

So I’m grateful for Guinness and whiskey, sure. But I’m even more grateful to be part of a community that will run tens of thousands of combined miles to make sure everyone has a home.

Are we allowed to be grateful?

I’m grateful for my body. Wait, what? Are we even allowed to say that these days?

Oh screw it. I am grateful for my body, and I’m going to stop pretending like I’m not. Now don’t get me wrong, it has taken a LOT of work to get me to the point where I can say this. It’s taken a lot of working out, eating right, and mental gymnastics to be able to push aside those critical little voices in my head. I gained the Freshman 20 (not 15) when I started college and it took the next four years to lose the extra love hanging around my middle. Today I’m a healthy size 4/6 and pretty happy about that.

What’s more, I’m grateful for what my body can do. It can climb mountains (I do live in Montana, after all), ski down those mountains, and even survive a class of Pure Barre. It helps me express myself and allows me to travel to new places. So yeah, I’d say I have a pretty amazing body, even if it’s not perfectly toned in every area.

Lake view

Pretty grateful for my legs taking me to such beautiful views!

So all my gratitude for having a healthy body and struggling to accept that gratitude got me thinking: What else do we have a hard time expressing our gratitude for? Why is it that it’s hard for us to say, “Thank you” for some things or to some people? What is it that holds us back? I’d love for you to help me work through this one. Maybe together we can figure out a way to express our gratitude a whole lot more. That would be something to feel good about.

A magic little pocket of community

Exercise is touted as the cure-all for anything in our lives that needs curing. Need to lose weight? Exercise. Need more energy? Exercise. Feeling down? Just exercise! Okay fine, we get it. But how many of us, after a long day of work, cooking dinner for our family, and taking five minutes to ourselves to relax, actually have time to get off the couch and head for a walk in the hills?

On evenings like these, it takes our entire town to get me outside. My husband and I are lucky enough to have a little apartment a stone’s throw from our town’s community mecca, Peet’s Hill. It’s where all the city trails meet, where dogs romp off-leash, and where kids go sledding from dawn til dawn after the first snowfall of the year. Here’s a view of the hill, taken in the spring:

Peet's Hill view

 

A bit blurry, but you get the idea. It’s beautiful, with panoramic vistas of the mountains and an overlook that allows visitors to really breathe in the town. Now these views are great, absolutely, and they’re certainly a contributing factor to why half the town can be found walking the hill on a sunny Saturday. But it’s the undeniable feeling of community that gathers everyone on Peet’s into one giant hug that brings me an unfailing burst of gratitude every time I’m up there.

Yesterday was one of those difficult days in which I needed to change my perspective. It was a Saturday, but I had a few very stressful hours of work to finish, and that rare February sunshine was out in full force, taunting me. So I finished my project, ran home, grabbed my dog, Bailey, and the two of us trekked our way through the melting snow and slippery ice to the top of Peet’s. As we walked, we heard parents laughing as their children flew over jumps on the sledding hill; we saw a bald eagle circle overhead; we heard the greetings of friends and acquaintances; we smelled the fresh air that can only be found in Montana; and I felt a smile on my face that melted away the stress and frustration of my morning. Bailey, in agreement, wagged his tail.

So it’s not exercise for the sake of exercise that gets me out of the house every day. It’s the feeling of gratitude I experience when my community reminds me that I am part of something much, much bigger than my own little trials and dramas.

What about you? What is it about your community that makes you feel grateful?