Why Young Runners Make Me Optimistic About "Kids Today"

Time spent on book: 4 hours
What I did: Civil religion
 Grade for the day: B

Our babysitter recently started running with her school's cross country team. When driving her home one evening, I took the opportunity to ask what she liked most about the sport.

"Running helps me to be more positive," she replied without hesitation.

Well then...

I'm not sure what I was expecting for an answer, but it wasn't this. She elaborated that when she is faced with a tough run, worrying and lamenting only makes the situation worse. But accepting the task with some sense of appreciation can flip the script. Drudgery becomes a challenge. And a challenge is an opportunity for growth.

It's a lesson, she continued, that translates to school. All of the negative thinking in the world won't erode a massive pile of homework.

Running life meets school life.... And social life too.

When it comes to building friendships, she expressed something that I have long maintained, that the bonds formed on the roads and trails strengthen through a shared experience of laboring breaths and profuse perspiration. Moreover, running with another person (or a group) presents an opportunity to disconnect from our technologies and to connect with each other instead.

When the conversation ended, I was, to say the least, inspired by the new runner. Perhaps I need to seek out more of these sorts of conversations. If nothing else, it will make me more optimistic about the future. Millennials, after all, are a superb target for the "get off my lawn" types among us.

It's the eternal curse of the rising generation, looked upon by their elders with horror and disgust.

It wasn't that long ago that Gen Xers like me signaled the end of humanity. "They have trouble making decisions," announced Time Magazine in 1990. "They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial."

Sound familiar?


It's reassuring to know that there is a new pack of runners lining up at the starting line. And it is safe to assume that they too will serve to remind me and everyone else about why we run, and why we need to keep running.

Happy trails, friends.