On Saturday morning, I went on a run on a greenway along the French Broad River. There was a crisp mist in the air. I wondered if it would rain but kept striding forward. When I reached the half-way point, I saw two older men in neon vests handing out water cups. It took me a few moments to realize it was for a 5k race.

I somehow find ways of nonchalantly running unplanned/unregistered races. I don’t make an effort to arrive on the same trail at the same time, yet it still happens. While I was living in Chicago, I joined in on several 5ks and even a half marathon. I guess it all has to do with the right timing.

However, this race was much different than the ones I spontaneously encountered in the big city. There were not crowds of runners but rather about thirty to forty participants in the whole race– many of which were grandparents and young children.

I smiled at the men handing out water, turned around, and headed back to my car. I could see three young boys sprinting up ahead and smiled at their efforts. Only a few minutes later I had caught up to them. They were now walking. Despite their temporary rest, when they saw me running past, they refused to let me “beat them.” One of the boys began running beside me, and his friends followed suit.

Their heads came up to my elbows, and they took two strides for each one of mine. “I’m sorry we are running with you!” one of the boys said to me. I tried not to giggle, but I did show a smile. I asked how much longer they had in their race. “One, or two, or three miles!” one said. Again, I was awestruck by their great innocence and efforts.

The boys ran with me for about one minute until they stated that they needed a rest and again walked along the path. I thought of them the remainder of my run, however.

I imagined what it was like to be a young child. I imagined myself running courageously next to a stranger.

This blog is focused on my life after college graduation. Hence, I have come far from my childhood days. However, seeing a child’s sparkle reminds me of my own. I remember what it was like to be a kid. Although I may not wish to relive the academic years, I do sometimes wish I could reclaim the innocence–the willingness to follow a stranger and apologize for taking stride along her. The older I’ve gotten, the more I have become aware of the pain and the hardships this world often elicits.

Bandaids can’t heal every wound: Some are deeper.

Butterflies and rainbows aren’t permanent fixes.

Not everyone receives the love they deserve.

This world is beautiful, but it has its flaws. Life is both challenging and rewarding. One day those children will know, but I pray they enjoy their current perceptions–the ones that give them the courage to step forward in stride without a fear of falling behind.