Exercise is one of those Christmas gifts that most of us forget to give ourselves. We blaze through the holidays fueled by some hellish mixture of sugary goodness and the “Christmas spirit” (which I strongly suspect is synonymous with sleep deprivation.) That’s why I’m so thankful to have just gone on my daily three mile run.

One of the things I’m most grateful for this year is the gift of family. I don’t mean the people who you’re biologically related to. Not at all. I mean the people who you can count on no matter what. The people who will support you to support yourself. Those are the people who I want to spend time with.

A running guide is a running partner who helps a blind person not run into or off of things. By nature of how guiding works, these people have to be better runners than you, they have to be willing to give up their time and energy, and they have to be thoughtful enough to even show an interest. You’re dependent upon these people. It’s a huge act of trust, and it builds a suitably tight bond between the running guide and the blind runner.

My running guide is hands-down one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s one of these people who walks into a room and everyone starts smiling. He’s bursting at the seems with energy, happiness, and humility. Everybody needs one of him. He’s patient, thoughtful, caring, generous, and positive, but he’s also honest, direct, unstoppable, unassuming, and he always, always, always gives his best. He doesn’t even understand the concept of failure. If we set out to do four miles and my lack of food or water that day meant I could only do two, there was never even a flicker of anger or frustration in his voice. (And believe me, that was not an isolated incident.) He listened to my endless questions and complaints, but he never once let me hold myself unaccountable for my decisions. He’s a huge role model to me as an athlete and as a person. I can’t say enough how much I respect him. Even in our off season, we meet up once a week to catch up and go grocery shopping. That alone saves me something like 3 hours and quite a bit of hastle. He’s just a fantastic person who’s full of fantastic qualities.

And the thing is, I’m sure he makes it look easy. I’m sure he has bad days. I’m sure he isn’t always as comfortable or content as it seems. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to have bad days. And it’s okay to be unhappy once in a while. The trick is to never let it consume you.

Let this be a reminder to all of us to appreciate the people in our lives worth appreciating. The mail man, the garbage guy, the barista at our local coffee shop, and yes, our friends, family, coaches, and community members. Let’s remember how strong people are for just getting out of bed every morning. For the people who don’t get out of bed, let’s remember that they have their reasons, too. Let’s go into the new year feeling a sense of peace and warmth about us. Because if my guide has taught me anything, it’s that sadness is a sometimes food.

Merry Christmas, stay warm, and stay happy.

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