If you were like me in elementary school, recess was your favorite subject and rainy days were the worst. Instead of playing outside, you were confined to a single room all day and expected to burn off the neverending energy of youth by playing card games or reading.
On rainy days in the carpool drop-off lane, we would wait until the last minute before jumping out of the car and making a mad dash to the hallways, fully aware that it was our last bit of freedom before a day of indoor voices. As we readied ourselves for the sprint and threw the door open, my mother, without fail, would yell, “Run between the raindrops.”
That following minute was madness and joy. Large backpacks thumping, shoelaces coming untied, and my little sister falling behind as we tried to take our mom’s words literally while sprinting to our classes.
I’ve run a lot since those elementary school days. I ran through college, I’ve run abroad, and now I work for a company that makes running shoes and apparel. Since I’ve run for many different reasons, I’ve occasionally fallen into the trap of letting the peaks and valleys of fitness affect my mood and outlook.
When you’re running good, you’re feeling good. When you’re not running, a sense of emptiness can creep into places that would otherwise be occupied by endorphins and accomplishment.
I work on the customer service side at On, one of the fastest-growing sports companies in the world. From my home office, a desk in a one-bedroom apartment shared with my girlfriend and cat, I answer all types of questions concerning the company.
Questions range from “What shoes should I get?” to “When does my package get here?” My title is “Happiness Deliverer,” and our team does try to deliver a little bit of happiness in every email or phone call. Whether it’s ensuring that shoes arrive on time for a birthday or chatting about the customer’s training, efficiency and a little personability go a long way.
With so many people at home, unable to go to a gym, and unable to engage with the routines that brought them joy, these chats can be a daily highlight – for them, I hope, and definitely for me.
Recently, a conversation with a customer began as a standard product question but continued with a woman telling me that running was her new hobby and much needed in her daily schedule. When quarantine began, she felt the uncertainty like the rest of the world and needed an outlet. She said that she isn’t very fast, but that her thirty minutes of daily running keeps her head clear and helps her feel grounded.
My own training has been sporadic since the pandemic began. On April 1st I ran 27 miles to celebrate my 27 years of life, and today I can hardly run a 5K. An injury, a race schedule on pause, and the weight of the world conspire to keep me sedentary. I don’t feel good because I don’t run often. I don’t run often because I don’t feel good.
My chat with the woman put running and life back in perspective – she delivered happiness to me. Instead of becoming fascinated with times and mileage, she always looks forward to her daily runs. She said the relief she feels when lacing up her running shoes is a bright moment that can’t be taken away, no matter the surrounding circumstances.
These days, when I go for a run here in Portland, I open the door to sheets of rain and still think about what my mom used to say. Things have changed since those mad dashes to class: I’m better at tying my shoes and I’ve got some new running gear to keep me dry. My body isn’t at its peak and I’m not chasing records, but I am still trying to run between the raindrops. I find joy splashing through these shorter runs – feeling light, even for a moment, in a seemingly heavy world.
This piece was first posted on my LinkedIn