You are going to move out of my way. Whether you know it yet or not, I know a secret about you: “It’s just too messy for you to run me over.”
That’s why I don’t need to back down.
I own that white line.
Over the last few years I have logged almost 400 hours running on roads. Running hundreds of miles each month — almost 3,000 total. And there is one thing that I can count on — there’s a white line guiding me down the left-hand side of the road. No matter where I’m running or how far I want to go, there’s a white line there .
Despite the temperature outside or how I’m feeling on the inside, there is comfort in owning the white line.
And despite the fact that you’re behind the wheel of a 3000 pound weapon, racing right at me, don’t think for one second that I’m going to take my foot off the white line.
Almost 5 million times, my foot has landed on that white line. So I take it personally. It’s mine. I own it.
The white line guides me.
When it’s raining right in my face, when it’s so hot that sweat makes my eyes sting, when the snow makes me cry and the tears form icicles — I don’t stop running. I don’t need to.
My foot just needs to find the white line. That’s all I need. I know I’m safe when my foot finds that 3 inch wide strip of reflective boundary.
Here are a few lessons I learned along the way:
1. Don’t blink, no matter how bad things look at the moment.
It might look like you’re about to be run over, steamrolled in fact. It might look like all the worst parts of your imagination are about to come scarily true. Chances are, those big, hairy, awful things aren’t going to hit you at all. At first it is natural to blink. It’s natural to slow down and cautiously move way out of the way. That’s natural. Your brain is telling you to survive. But you learn over time that what looks like danger is really just an opportunity for you to be courageous.
I have run by thousands of drivers over the years. Since I’m running against traffic, I can watch as drivers head straight for me. Women on their cell phones. Businessmen in ties talking into their headsets. Sports cars. Minivans. Coca-Cola tractor-trailers — delivering thousands of bottles of soda pop to a distribution warehouse. They all share something in common. They all move out of my way. All of them.
Despite the fact that I weigh 170 pounds and their vehicle weighs at least 20 times that amount, they make the decision to let me own the white line. They move out of my way. And so, over time, I stopped blinking. I know what’s going to happen. Even if you’re heading right at me. I know that you’re going to move. You should stop blinking too. It will all work out.
2. There is safety in just taking another move down the line.
There are moments when you’re tired. Your brain is exhausted and your body is running on fumes. You can’t think straight because you haven’t eaten in what seems like forever. Everything inside your brain is telling you that it’s time to quit. Time to stop. Time to rethink things. You just feel broken.
And then you look down and noticed the white line.
All you have to do is take another step. It’s that simple. There aren’t 100 different strategies. There aren’t even a dozen different strategies. There is only one thing that you need to do. Take another step. Move down the line. Keep placing one of your feet on top of the white line until you get to where you want to be.
No matter what you’re facing, one small step can start solving big problems.
3. Well-meaning, distracted people are the worst danger to you.
Your worst danger running on the white line isn’t the people that see you. It’s the people that don’t see you until it’s too late. It’s the people that are too preoccupied with their own drama. Those people can kill you. Any even though they’ll regret what they’ve done, it will be too late for you. So watch out. Keep your head up. Keep looking around.
Watch for patterns. Look for warning signs. Make adjustments before you accidentally get run over by a well-meaning person who’s dangerously distracted by their own crazy world.
Almost every time I go running in the city, I end up with a story about “almost getting hit by a crazy driver”. Drivers who only look left when turning right. I am running right at them, sometimes right in front of them, and they don’t see me. They pull out hoping to catch a break in traffic and end up almost scraping me off the pavement. But I know their kind. I’ve seen it one too many times. So I’m ready. And I’m still alive.
4. Small improvements can be the difference between success or horrific failure.
I’ve only been hit by a vehicle one time. Last year. And it barely counted as a hit. The oversized mirror of a large pick up truck smacked my arm as I was running by. I heard the smack of the mirror hitting my arm before I felt anything. Actually, I didn’t feel much of anything until hours later what I noticed that the upper half of my arm was discolored and swollen. Some Ibuprofen and a few weeks of healing made that problem go away.
Now I just pay attention a little bit more when vehicles are especially close to my white line. Instead of jumping out of the way, many times I just need to gently move my arm up or down a few inches in order to avoid something sticking out of the vehicle. Small movements can make a big difference to my health and happiness.
Frantically jumping out of the way could easily result in a more serious injury — like a twisted ankle. Usually, making small tweaks to what you’re doing or “how you’re doing it” makes a big difference in your results. Staying on the white line means that you need to be smart about making adjustments. And making them quickly.
5. Enjoy each step of the journey. You’ll be home soon enough.
There are a million things running through your head when you’re stuck miles away from all of your “creature comforts” –chores that need to be finished, ideas that seem exciting at the moment, people to call, and emails to write. If you are not careful, you can miss out on the journey. You can miss the amazing moments that are happening each step along the white line. Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming.
So enjoy the journey. Be deliberate about each step. About each moment. You’ll be back to your problems soon enough. But for now, this moment is enough. But you won’t notice it if you’re not focused. You’ll miss out on the opportunity to learn and live and laugh. If you are going to fight for the white line, why not enjoy the conquest?
So much of life is a blur because we’re too focused on “the next thing” instead of being aware of what’s happening right now. Our memories are faint. Our experiences are insignificant. Our lives are without meaning. All because we don’t enjoy the journey. We worry about what’s next.
6. Know what can kill you most quickly.
It only takes one accident to end it all. One moment of distraction. One poorly timed step. That’s all it takes. And I’m dead. Living a life that owns the white line columns comes with scary risks. Your bravery can be your downfall. Your courage can be what spells your doom.
It doesn’t make any sense to try to pretend that you were not fallible. Stop wasting your time trying to pretend like things can’t hurt you. You’re mortal. You’re weaker than you pretend to be. That’s okay. We are all like that sometimes. But running on the white line means you have to be honest about your odds.
You don’t need to panic. You don’t need to avoid the challenge. You just need to be careful. And purposeful. Deliberate about each step.
You can own the white line.
It is yours for the taking. Yours for the running.
There are plenty of good reasons why you shouldn’t put yourself in the way of danger. There are plenty of excuses and explanations and logical thinking that fly in the face of you living your life owning the white line. But there’s something magical about knowing that you own 3 inches of asphalt everywhere.
That white line makes me a better man. Not just as a runner, but as a businessman, a spouse, a father, and a citizen. That white line has changed my world.
It can change your life too.
Do you own it?