Just about anything can serve to inspire - to unleash that upswell of creativity or performance, or establish a sense of connection to a higher source. What makes something inspirational then, is simply how one assigns meaning to that thing or experience, and how one then responds to it.
Running, like any other human act, is a vehicle to express inspiration, though it may not even be conscious. Conversely, running might occur without a drop of inspiration. It all goes back to how we think about it; how we feel it in our body or soul.
There is a lone runner I see from time to time, running the streets of Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, Maine, near the coast where the Spurwink River comes in after it passes along a part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It is a beautiful part of the world, in spite of its finite area.
There are a few things that stand out for me about this particular runner, such that I consider him an inspiration: The first is, he appears to have some sort of physical challenges. I've never met him personally or seen him not running, so this is just my impression, not a fact. It's the way he holds his head off to the side, and how his arms and legs move in a contrary way, not linearly or fluidly in the usual 'forward and back' running form.
The second is his perseverance and consistency. I've been seeing him for twenty years and the scene is always the same: He runs alone, in all seasons, in the same area. I appreciate that predictability and steadfastness. It gives me a sense of security.
And the third reason I am intrigued, is that he wears a satisfied expression regardless of the conditions. I've seen him in snowstorms, oppressive heat, and rain. He seems to look ahead at the road before him, not bothered by my curiosity about him. It's as if he is content and comfortable doing this physical thing, that looks difficult.
I expect he doesn't realize he's an inspiration, though maybe he does by the mere act of being a long distance runner.
Here's the funny thing about inspiration: None of what I think about this man might be true. But it's what I've made up, and how I've defined it. It then, works for me.
Yesterday, I joined over 800 runners to complete the Mid-Winter Classic 10-Mile road race in Cape Elizabeth (the part of the world I just described above.) The five-mile mark is at the top of a small hill before the road goes down and through the marsh, and up again to Route 77. I was running along the flat part through the Rachel Carson preserve, when my friend Tom came up alongside of me. We checked in with each other and I told him I was okay but needed to screw my head on a bit to stay tough through the second half of the race.
It was just then that the lone runner came toward us on the other side of the street. I pointed him out to Tom saying that there was my inspiration. Tom said he could use some of that just about then, but I'm sure it didn't work for him as it did for me. It's how we look at it, understand it, and allow it to move us.
What inspires you?