One Sock Runner

It was a cold December morning in Dallas yet one we had been anticipating for months. Downtown streets were filled with cars, inching their way, hoping to find a parking spot. The 2015 Dallas Marathon was less than an hour from starting time and my wife Cindy along with thousands of other runners were making their way to various staging areas, many wearing garbage bags as makeshift raincoats to keep dry before the race started.

Along with the runners were endless spectators, most here to cheer on friends and loved ones along the racecourse. A chain-link fence separated spectators and anxious runners ready to get the race started and shake of the pre-race jitters. We eventually found Cindy, meeting up at the chain-link fence. As we talked and encouraged her, another runner, someone I had never met before, approached us. “Are you running?” were the words he directed towards me. I wondered if I had somehow overstepped an imaginary boundary, maybe I was busted for trying to give my wife a kiss through the squares of the chain-link fence? “No, I’m not running, my wife is running” were my words back to him. “I’ll give you five dollars for one of your socks” were his next words. What a strange thing to ask, why would anyone want to buy a single sock I thought. “I lost one of my socks this morning, on the way to the race, can spare a sock?” said the man.

As I looked down, a plain as day was one foot with a sock and shoe on it and the other with no sock and a shoe. I thought, how is this guy going to run a marathon like this? “Of course you can have one of my socks, maybe you want both of them?” I told him but he insisted he only needed one. So I took off my shoe and gave him a single sock, no charge of course. As I passed it through the chain-link fence he thanked me and put it on his sockless foot and headed back to get ready for the race to begin.

We met Cindy along the Half Marathon course at various locations. By the time she had crossed the finish line, I had developed a blister on my sockless foot and realized how we often go through life like that runner who might have tried to run the race with only one sock. While he likely could have completed that twenty-six mile journey handicapped with only one foot equipped for the job ahead, he instead humbled himself enough to recognize a weakness that could be overcome by simply asking someone for a bit of assistance, in this case, a simple sock.

My professional career has spanned over thirty years with many more to come I hope. I’ve come to realize that no single person really has everything together; we each have areas where we lack expertise or skills to be exceptional. Many of us hide these deficiencies for fear of being seen as weak yet real strength comes by knowing what our natural talents are and where we have deficiencies. A wise person, knowing these intricacies of their life will consider how to overcome challenges and be willing to ask others for assistance. For that one-sock runner, he decided not to try to run the race with a deficiency but asked for a little help to allow him to run the race well.

As you approach the week ahead, ask yourself, “What areas could I use some help?” Could there be co-workers, family, friends or even a spectator that could help you to go from good to great?

See you at the starting line, I’ll be the one wearing socks.