It’s cold out and drizzling, and I didn’t much want to run today. But last week my running mileage was 2, because of the new bike and the nice weather, so I laced up and headed out for an easy four miles.

Twelve minutes out, I ran into a Kenyan runner named Henry. We’ve met on the cross country course before–he’s very friendly. He invited me to run with him, and we started slowly, chatting. This was his easy run of the day. Yesterday he’d run 24 miles; this afternoon, his plan is 20 more. His goal for the spring is, literally, to win the Boston Marathon. (At last year’s race, he was on the ground for 15 minutes suffering from dehydration, then got up and continued, to finish in 2:45.)

The pace picked up, my new shoes got muddy, and my plan for an easy run was shot. But it was absolutely worthwhile. After telling me about his problems with gallstones, working for the UN in Kenya, and meeting his wife–who teaches at UNC’s School of Public Health–he asked me what I did, and I explained that I have a PhD in English but work as an editor and yoga teacher.

After a little discussion, he said, “I’m glad you put down the paper, the PhD, and decided to help people.” It made my day, since I really want to see my teaching as useful. His take was that, given the epidemic of obesity in the United States, it was much more worthwhile to help people enjoy moving than to teach sedentary people about books.

We saw two women from my running group. (“Yeah, I run with the Kenyans,” I thought as we smiled and waved.) Henry said, “You women get it, you understand about running.” Maybe we do.

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