Like a sore thumb

Week 5, Day 1. Three 5-minute running sessions with two 3-minute walks in between. Another 40-ish degree morning. This may become the norm now that it’s the middle of October, but I was better prepared today with one of my husband’s Army-isssued Under Armour-type long sleeve tees with thumb holes. My hands stayed warm, though I noticed they were really dry later in the day. This was less overall running than we did last week but more long stretches. Monday, we’ll be up to 8-minute runs, which I can still hardly believe.

Even though we’re on our fifth week, I have trouble thinking of myself as a runner. I run, but does that make me a runner? To the people we meet on these morning runs, we probably are considered runners. After all, who would be out by 8 o’clock, with two kids in a jogging stroller, in 40-degree temperatures if they weren’t runners (and didn’t have to put kids on the bus)? I sometimes wonder what people are thinking. Do they think we’re crazy? (The answer is probably “yes.”) Are they convicted of their need to exercise or feel guilty about their own routines? (Probably not at that time of the morning, driving by at 30 mph!) Are they inspired to start doing something? (I can only hope.) Do they see us as fanatical and different or committed and driven?

Only one time have I not wondered these things. When we hit the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail on Monday, we joined a club of sorts. Everyone we met was walking, on purpose, or riding a bike. People come to the trail to exercise, so we didn’t have to feel weird.

I had similar struggles today as we ventured to the King of Prussia mall, touted as the premier East Coast shopping destination. It’s huge. It’s urban. It’s hip. It’s diverse. I felt underdressed the minute we walked in, and I wasn’t even wearing a ratty T-shirt! We decided to make this our fun family event for the end of Reading Week, Phil’s break from classes, and we planned ahead of time that we wouldn’t spend much money because frankly we don’t have much money to spend. I’m sure no one could have known that about us by looking at us or passing by, but I felt out of place, like that old “sticking out like a sore thumb” idiom says. This feeling heightened when Isabelle got tired and wanted to ride in the stroller. We had to switch Corban to a back carry with one of our babywearing carriers, and I thought I heard comments (maybe I’m just paranoid) but I know we got looks, the double-take kind. We didn’t see any other babywearers in the mall. I wanted to head straight to Lancaster’s Central Market, where every other kid is being worn by a mom or dad.

I’ve never really liked being different or sticking out from a crowd, especially not as a kid where my goal was to get through school mostly unnoticed. I wanted to blend in, be like everyone else, have no outstanding qualities that could be the cause for criticism or ridicule. I’ve grown up a little since then, but that feeling hasn’t totally gone away.

As Christians we’re called to be in the world but not of the world. Am I the only one who finds it hard to follow that admonition? I love Jesus. I know what I believe. But I also want to have friendships with people before they write me off as a freak.

Maybe this is another unintentional lesson from running. Inevitably, I will be able to call myself a runner, thus identifying with a group of people who some (me, at one time, included) don’t understand. The faith I cling to may require the same.

Some people may not understand why we’re training to run a 5K, but maybe they’ll see how it’s changing us.

Some people may not understand why we choose to follow Christ, but I hope they’ll see how He’s changed our lives.

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