Saturday, April 10, 2010

Running on

One year ago April 7, I was laid off from The Dallas Morning News. It wasn't a bad day; it was beautiful and sunny and a lot of people hugged me and I cried a little but really not much at all. A friend carried my boxes to my car; another met me for lunch. I ran that night and woke up the next morning and life went on.

A month or so later, I started working at Run On, the running store where I had shopped for years. It was one of the best things I have ever done. I have learned so much -- including (if I may boast a bit here) what a primo socks salesperson I am. For someone who had never sold anything other than Girl Scout cookies (and those not particularly well) it was a huge kick.

I have also worked with some of the finest people imaginable. People who -- even on my days of feeling like the village idiot -- have made me believe I belonged there. More than half of them (including the manager and assistant manager) are young enough to be my children. Still, something about each endeared them to me, and I hope I know them forever.

I also met (mostly) wonderful customers  -- walkers, runners and neither-of-the-aboves. Everyone who walks through those double doors has a reason, a story behind their need for shoes on that particular day. I loved finding out the whys; looking for a connection with even the most stand-offish or shy.

I liked talking to the new runners, convincing them (or at least trying mightily) that they CAN do this; that running is at its essence as simple and complicated as life's journey: Putting one foot in front of the other.

And in so doing, of course, no matter who the customers, helping them find the most comfortable pair of shoes they have ever worn in their entire lives.

My son has loved me working there. He runs track, and his coach is a fave of our store. Plus Charlie likes hearing my stories: About the people who are way too particular about their shoe size, and the few who really do have stinky feet. About the man who tried on eight pairs of shoes before buying...nothing. About the woman who runs to raise money for blood diseases, because her son died of one and her husband is struggling to survive his own. About the girl who ties her shoes so tightly that her mother needs a screwdriver to loosen the laces.

Run On became an important part of both our lives. Then, a month or so ago, my former editor at the DMN called. We met for coffee and she offered me my job back. I start on April 19. And though I am extremely excited about writing for a living again, the thought of leaving Run On was tougher than some people might understand.

Working there was serendipitous, a godsend, an alignment of the stars -- one whose purpose only those really close to me can fathom. It was more than a paycheck. It was a place; it was people. And I expect I'm going to refer to the store as "we" for quite awhile. As in "This summer we're going to start selling the Vibram (barefoot-running) shoes."

Truth to tell, I hope I don't catch myself when I do.


dv said...


Lori said...

Congrats! I look forward to reading your stories in the DMN again.

coachphelan said...

This is REALLY good, Leslie. VERY good. So good, in fact, may I have your permission to re-print it in The Phast Times News????? I want others to know and read about you, AND welcome you back to writing again. You're the best running writer the Dallas Morning News has!

zbsports said...

Great race report. This is a very clear and informative post. I like it.