Tim was panting when Paul caught up to him.
“You look awful,” Paul said.
“Thanks,” Tim gasped. “I feel awful.”
Paul pointed to a bench. “Sit. It’s okay.”
Tim looked like he wanted to argue, but stumbled over to the bench. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Last week I was doing great. You saw me. This morning, I can barely run. I’m so out of shape. This isn’t working.”
Paul sat quietly, letting Tim catch his breath. “There’s a fountain,” he said, pointing across the path.
When Tim returned, Paul looked up. “Tell me about your weekend,” he said.
“It was just a weekend. I worked on the yard on Saturday. We went to a wedding and reception in the city. Got home about one. Slept in, finally got rid of my headache in the afternoon, just before headed to my in-laws for supper. We were going to picnic, but it was too hot. We grilled and then played Rummikub til late. Nothing that was the kind of work that should leave me this unable to run.”
“How fast were you running before I got here?” Paul said.
“I was just running. I don’t know.” Tim looked down. After Paul’s statement about running at conversational speed, Tim wasn’t going to let on that he had been trying to run as fast as Paul.
Paul smiled. “If you were interested in training, in preparing for something, I could help you. I’d point out that lack of sleep takes away energy. I’d point out that increases in temperature makes you run slower. I’d point out that for an introvert, being around people takes away energy. I’d point out that building speed too fast wears you out.”
Tim looked up. “Are you making excuses?”
Paul shook his head. “I don’t care about excuses. I’m for explanations for how you feel right now. Because honest analysis and attention to all of your life can improve your running. But looking at your running without considering all of your life will leave you frustrated.”
“But why are you talking about it in relation to training?” Tim asked.
“Because training demands purpose,” Paul said. “It involves looking to the future rather than thinking about how tired you are this morning. It involves learning how to improve rather than assuming change will happen.”
He stood up and dragged Tim to his feet. “Whether you are talking about training for a race or training for character or training for living a godly life, you need to decide something about purpose.”
He started to run. “Or you can be keep being surprised by how hard it is to run after a weekend designed to leave you exhausted.”
Tim waved him on. “I can’t keep up with you,” he called to Paul. “But I can get a little ahead of me.”
Tim started to run. Slowly. Which meant that he couldn’t see Paul’s smile.