I round the corner and meet him square in the eyes. I see his hand come up despite the sideways rain that has been pouring down for what seems like a year. It’s a welcome distraction from the suffering of the last 20 minutes, otherwise known as my lunch run. I’m caught off guard, but my hand instinctively goes up in response. I don’t know why, but his acknowledgement of my efforts does not go unnoticed – almost as if I am validated for my tenacity – or perhaps it’s my laziness from the sleep-in this morning. The runners wave is a daily challenge. To wave, or not to wave? that is the question. I once missed a high-five from another runner during a long run and am I still living with the guilt today.
Is it that he understands the suffering of solo pavement plodding as a sort-of collective agreement we both entered into as we laced our shoes? Perhaps he, too, is a disciple of the “calories in, calories out” scripture in which we repent our banana bread sins on long, endless stretches of seawall. Or perhaps there is an acknowledgement of the bond we share as the few humans that chose to wait until the wind picked up and the clouds changed into a darker shade before thinking it was a great time to be outdoors. I’ve noticed people do tend to wave more in the torrential winter rain. Or maybe that arm came up as an acknowledgement that “I, too, made a poor choice in not running before work.” Does he think that our society, based on increasingly individualistic tendencies, has surpassed its threshold and it is now time to forge community, starting right here on the Vancouver Seawall?
One could argue that every one of us lives in a world of our own making – a reality constructed in part by us, but also in part by others – a reminder that we exist as both core and appendage. The constant inundation of social media can be ironic. It acts as a visceral reminder of the consequences of us growing apart. In this case, perhaps something as small as mutual acknowledgement, a wave signaling, “We’re out here, alone but together,” can convince us of the good in the human condition. Perhaps it is in these types of encounters that ultimately can shape how we perceive the world. Or as the poet David Whyte wrote, “It is the intangible air passed round a shaped wing which easily holds our weight.” That space between another runner’s wave and mine is something we cannot see, but is inevitably there.
My watch beeps, almost as a reminder that I’m making forward movement (something I forgot when I stepped outside and into a headwind). I have reached my halfway point and turn onto a road where I trade wind for elevation. I see her off in the distance. She is coming up the opposite way.