Yesterday, I left my usual turf — Lake Merritt — and went toward the Oakland Hills. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Oakland Hills are where the city’s 1% reside: beautiful houses with professionally manicured lawns. For runners, it also offers hills (duh), well-maintained sidewalks, and little-to-no traffic stops. As I was slogging my way up a particularly hilly street, I crossed paths with two immigrant gardeners unloading their tools, ready to start their day. We exchanged glances. I couldn’t help but feel a tremendous amount of guilt that, here I was, running for exercise, while they were about to devote their bodies to a day of physical labor. It wasn’t “white guilt” since I’m not white… but maybe more like “socio-economic guilt”?
I’ve always felt a tremendous amount of gratitude when I run. Two leg surgeries (ACL and ankle hardware) and their subsequent recovery periods have made me eternally grateful for being able to ambulate without any significant problems. But yesterday’s incident revealed to me that I should also be grateful for having the time to run. It’s a real luxury. It’s also one that comes with a price (literally), as it’s part of the reason why I chose a part-time job, so that I could have flexibility in my schedule. Now, I’m not comparing myself to the runners who have to make real sacrifices to run — those who wake up at the break of dawn or go running late into the evening because that’s the only time they can run, or parents who have to find a babysitter before they can head out the door. I guess my point is that, as a runner, I often take it for granted that anyone can run any time, anywhere, and at little or no cost. But there is an inherent luxury in being able to have the time to run, and I felt very aware of it yesterday.
What do you think? Do you feel gratitude when you run? What about guilt?