Thankful Things Thursday: Strangers Can Be So Nice

Last night I attempted a Pilates class at my gym.

I say “attempted” because I didn’t exactly “do” all the moves. I managed to wobble during every balance, tip over during every side plank and face-plant during the squat-thrust-down-dog-push-up-leg-curl move.

I’m not too familiar with Pilates, but I’m going to venture a guess to say this stuff wasn’t “normal” Pilates. I was kind of hoping I’d get to lay down the whole time and maybe squeeze my abs once or twice and walk out of class with a six-pack…of abs, or maybe Coronas.

But no, this Pilates On Steroids class kicked my weak glutes, and the trouble started within my first 30 seconds in the studio.

The instructor, in her cute little skin-tight Lululemon outfit and her perky ponytail, was like, “Put your hands together, close your eyes, stand with your heels touching and your feet turned out.”

I thought I nailed it. I could do all those things!

Then she goes on: “Now think of three people you are grateful for in your life.”

My brain went nuts! I thought of six people — Mom, Dad, Ryan, Michaela, Brian, Tyler, Tyler, Tyler, OMG I love Tyler — right away.

Three of my favorite dudes: Brother, Nephew, Dad. See you guys TOMORROW! Tyler, I know you are dying to hit a home run, but you will have to wait, because helmets are bigger than your entire body. Give it time.

I was all, “I rock at Pilates. I’m so good at this. I can list 600 people I’m grateful for. This class is easy.”

Then Perky Instructor Girl With The Flat Stomach And Short Shorts continues: “Now, think of three positive affirmations for yourself, all starting with ‘I am’…”

My excited brain went blank.

Suddenly, this “Pilates” class was very difficult for me.

I tried to think of things.

“I am strong.”

That was my first one, because I was thinking about my bike ride that morning, which was cool.

“I am…have a good job.”

That was my second one. A grammatical shit show.

“I am hair.”

I’m not even kidding, the third thing I thought of was “I am hair.” Then in my brain I tried to fix it by quickly changing it to, “I am long hair…I have long hair!”


It’s a little pathetic that the best compliment or affirmation I could give myself last night was about my hair, which isn’t even that long and is currently at war with the NYC humidity.

What can we learn from this?

Well, first, it’s that I hate Pilates and it’s too hard. And second, it’s that I’m better at being grateful for others than I am at being pleased with myself. I’ll work on it, but for now let’s channel that “I love you so much and you bring so much to my life” energy and throw it into Thankful Things Thursday!

I’m thankful I’m going to New Hampshire tomorrow — “home,” as my mom likes me to call it — for some quality family time. We have plans, including going strawberry picking and going to a BBQ on Saturday. But my main plan is to steal Tyler. Or at least borrow him for a while.

Hey little buddy! Your head is growing!

I asked Ryan if Tyler is excited to see me, but he said something about him being baby constipated. I think that translates to excitement somehow.

I’m thankful Brian gets up early sometimes, too. It makes that 5 AM alarm a whole lot easier when I’m not the only one responding to it.

I’m thankful for macaroons. I like the chocolate ones and the regular coconut ones dipped in chocolate. I also like macarons, the French things, but we can be thankful for those another time. Macaroons are my current dessert of choice.

I’m thankful for fresh summer fruit. I think I was psyched about this last week, too, so at least I’m consistent and you know these are legitimate, non-fleeting thoughts. I can’t get enough watermelon.

Oh it's so good. Once it hits your lips. Also, melon tastes best when prepared with a melon baller.

I want to fill my entire fridge, and then my entire stomach, with watermelon.

I’m thankful for ice packs and ACE bandages. My foot felt weird the other day, and I’m being Paranoid Preventative by icing it every morning and every night. I’m also easing up on the running and favoring cross-training and less impactful activities. The last thing I want is to go into marathon training with things hurting and an injury on the horizon. It’s a good thing I live with a doctor.

Am I capable of icing my foot myself? Yes, I am. But Brian does it better, and when he does it, I don't have to move from my laying down position on the couch. It's a win-win situation, except I'm not sure what he wins. I guess it's a win-lose situation.

And by doctor I mean “CEO of an advertising agency.” They are basically the same thing. Look it up.

I’m thankful for summery cocktails that make me feel like I’m on a tropical vacation when I’m really melting in midtown Manhattan. I had a tasty drink with a cool girl on Tuesday night, and I’m still thinking about it. It was fresh and fruity and it made me drunk. Perfect.

I’m thankful I survived last weekend’s road trip. So I may have mentioned this once or twice: I do not really drive anymore. Since moving to NYC five years ago, I never really need to get behind the wheel of a car. That’s probably a good thing. My parents always said I had a “lead foot,” and the cop(s) who gave me speeding tickets over the years would likely agree. It’s just best that I ride shotgun, where I can play with the radio and sing songs the entire time.

But over the weekend, I needed to drive. Brian was doing this bike ride, and we needed to get the car from the start point to the end point. He seemed to think that driving a car while simultaneously riding a bike was not implausible, which left me to drive and navigate.

This is my hand on the wheel for proof that I did, in fact, squeeze myself into the driver's seat. You will notice that I am going 0 MPH. That's because I was sitting in a parking lot at the Tanger Outlets, wishing they were open.

So I was pretty nervous about driving, and about driving through unfamiliar territory. I’m not always so great with directions.

Also, the “car” was not a car, but rather a beast.

Pimp my ride. Pimp my minivan. Pimp my friend Molly's bike.

Yes, that was our van, and yes, it is the exact same size as my apartment. Excellent.

Also also also, I wasn’t driving alone the whole time. I picked up Brian’s mom, and then drove with her in the car. Was I nervous? F yes I was. But she is one of two of the cutest women alive (Mom, you are the other one!) and she did a great job navigating, and we both made it to the finish line safely and with time to spare. And with my cowbell.

This is Brian's mom. She's tiny and cute and she's a teacher, which automatically makes her a good person in my mind.

I’m thankful for giant chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery. I had one after my marathon, and we went to the same location when Brian finished his ride this weekend. It seemed fitting. And I was hungry. No one argued with me.

The cookie weighs something like six pounds and no I will not share with you. I ate mine and half of Brian's mom's. YUM.

I’m thankful for the kindness of strangers. For some reason, strangers have been particularly nice to me lately.

First, there’s my new BFF John. Starting last fall, I noticed that I would see the same guy running in Central Park every morning, without fail. He was always wearing the same thing: black shorts and a white tank top, and he was pretty speedy.

Then the winter rolled around. John was still out there every day, and as I added layers of legwarmers to my short shorts, John circled the park in his uniform black shorts and white tank. I guess Superhuman John doesn’t get cold…ever.

I figured John was around 55 years old, and I was impressed that he was fast, relentless and clearly disciplined.

This is John! Everyone say hi!

We always ran opposite directions, and one day in December I was so excited because we actually smiled at each other. I texted Brian to let him know. I was psyched. A few days after that, we waved. There may have been a passing high five involved as well.

Then, one Saturday morning in January, Brian and I were running together, and we saw John. We all stopped, he introduced himself, we chatted for a while, and I left saying, “See you tomorrow I’m sure!”

But then — dun dun dunnnnn — months went by, and John was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t on the road or the Bridle Path. I took my running hiatus, I moved, and I never saw John again.

Finally, John reappeared last week! He ran up next to me and I was all giddy-excited. My buddy was back! We ran together for a bit and we talked and John is the nicest man of all time. I told him my last name (Mom, you never told me not to talk to strangers. That lesson was lost on me.), and within the hour I had an email from him saying it was nice to chat and run together.

I online stalked my new best friend, and it turns out, John is 68, runs with the Westchester Track Club and is pretty much a badass. Also, we’re neighbors, and I ran into him the other night while I was at Duane Reade in my pajamas and definitely not on my way to get frozen yogurt.

So that’s John. Nice Guy Story #1.

Story #2 is about Unnamed Bike Man.

As you know, I am newly interested in cycling.


However, I’m not quite “good,” at least not yet. But I want to be. I want to be fast and awesome.

On Sunday, Brian was out doing a “hard ride” — the day after a century, per his whacked-out training plan — and although we left our apartment together, we were not exactly riding “together.”

At one point, a nice Man On A Bike rode up next to me.

“You’re a runner, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said to The Man Who Could Have Been Creepy But Wasn’t.

“I can tell,” he said. “Move your feet back on the pedals.”

I scooted my feet back, so I was pushing the pedals with the arches of my feet instead of my heels.

“Further,” he demanded.

And so I did. I started pedaling using the balls of my feet, and it made the best difference ever.

Then we kept chatting, and he gave me the biggest ego boost of all time (because that’s exactly what I need).

He told me I clearly had “the power in my legs” from running, and that I had “great cadence.” He rode with me for a while, and he gave me tons of helpful advice. Whenever we approached a hill, he encouraged me to keep pushing instead of half-assing it, which is my usual technique. Pretty soon, something magical happened: We caught up to Brian.


Before The Man On The Bike With No Name rode off, he yelled to me: “You’re going to be one of the good ones.”

He thinks I have cycling potential. This happened on Sunday and I’m still smiling about it.


(I rode again this morning, by the way, and managed to squeeze in an extra mile. 25.5 to start the day. Woo! Biking!)

Finally, Story #3, is that there was a man running the “wrong” way around the Reservoir on Tuesday. I was going the right way (of course, you know I hate breaking rules) and each time we passed each other he would shout, “You’re doing great!” or “Keep it up!”

Every single time.

Maybe I’ll do something nice for a stranger today. Probably not, though. I’m pretty busy.

This has gotten long, so I’ll wrap it up with one final, really deep thought:

I’m thankful for summer. Bring on the heat. I can take it.

Complain about the heat all you want. I'll be over here, sweating and being fine with it.

THIS GAME IS FUN, SO YOU SHOULD PLAY, TOO: Tell me what you’re thankful for today! Did a stranger make your day? Did you have a great run today? Did you take tomorrow off so you have a long weekend? Does your company give you Summer Fridays? Did you remember to floss this morning? All great things. Share away!



65 Responses

  1. this post made my day today. after a funky week, this was a great reminder that there are really great people out there! thank you!! 🙂

  2. I love reading your blog! I’m just starting out getting the nerves to run a half marathon! Also, Tyler being super freaking cute is an added bonus to your awesome blogging!

  3. Kind strangers are one of my favorite things! It’s also fun getting to play the kind stranger in someone else’s day.

    Just a Crohn’s FYI, apparently coconut macaroons are supposed to be really good for our bellies. I’m not really sure why, but I’m not going to argue with that one! Coconut macaroons, get into my Crohnsing little belly.

  4. Hi Ali!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little bit now, and feel the urge to comment today! I love your blog. I just ran my second marathon last week and I thought of you every time I saw someone taking pictures on the course… debated whether to smile/wave/throw up some jazz hands or carry on looking tough (more realistically, looking ridiculous).

    I work at a coffee shop and we get some homeless people in just looking for a place to sit down that is cooler than outside. Yesterday a customer came to the counter and said “I want to buy that guy a sandwich and a cup of coffee… And a gift card so he can have lunch the next few days.” It was so nice to see someone thinking of somebody else for a change. Refreshing.

    Thanks for keeping my spirits up and consistently reminding me what I love about running 🙂

  5. Nice, non-creepy strangers are the best! I’m pretty sure you’ve already done something nice for a stranger today. You inspire people everyday with your blog and happy-go-lucky attitude. Thanks for the sarcasm and for being true to yourself 🙂

  6. Your story about John is so cute 🙂 I wish I could connect with strangers like that. I’m not very good at talking to people, and usually just smile as I pass them.

  7. I am also thankful for watermelon!! Yummy!
    I am thankful I get to have an extra day off this week and go to the beach (first beach run ever? I think so!!)
    I am thankful I got to run with a friend this week! First time I have ever gone running with anyone and it was a blast!!!
    Really, I am thankful for my wonderful life!! 🙂

  8. the kindness of strangers can be amazing…I love the older people that yell out encouraging things when I’m out running (since i run the same loop mostly). To them, I am awesome. Also, I om nom nom’d just looking at that cookie. Seriously, could that look anymore delicious?

  9. Stranger danger be damned! (

    I am thankful for a girly weekend trip to NYC this weekend to see the Newsies! Gotta get some miles in at Central Park, too, so thank you for your endless bathroom knowledge. I feel like an expert by proxy. (:

  10. I loved this post–it actually made me laugh out loud several times.

    You’ve had so many nice interactions with people in central park! Every time I run there I want to talk to people, but I’ve never had the same luck as you!

    I’m thankful I’m finally moved back to NYC for good. I just finished college and am about to start work tomorrow (which I’m not so thankful for…), but I love New York and biking through Central Park today was great! Despite the heat…

  11. It sounds like you have a lot to be thankful for. I like the idea of “thankful Thursdays” because it encourages you to stop and appreciate what you’ve got.

    I’m curious what turned you onto biking. I had surgery yesterday to repair a high grade tear of my meniscus. I’d like to think I can return to running at some point, but I like your enthusiasm despite the injury!!

    1. I used to bike with my family when I was growing up (mountain biking in NH, yikes!), but got more interested in it when I started dating Brian, who does bike races all the time. When I got injured this winter, I needed a non-running activity to keep me sweaty, and biking fit the bill without further injuring me.

  12. Not to ignore the bigger more beautiful points of your story, but I’m thankful my pilates trainer isnt nearly that much of a frootloop! 😉

  13. Love your stories about the nice strangers! And that Pilates class sounds like too much of a mental challenge. I don’t like to think too much when I’m getting my sweat on.

  14. I am hair – LOL! that is hysterical! I can’t do yoga or pilates either, just NOT good at it. We can’t be good at it all right?! LOVE the no-name man! what a nice guy to help and to give you some great feedback! Enjoy the weekend, weather is a scorcha isn’t it? 😉

    1. I thought you’d be proud of me for doing Pilates! It’s ALMOST like a barre class, right?! I thought of you and that cute sister of yours when I signed up for the dang class.

  15. I loved your stranger stories!!! One Saturday I was heading out for a long run per my training plan, and reallllly just was not in the mood for it. A guy on the sidewalk saw me, smiled and put his hand up for a high five. It literally put the biggest smile on my face and powered me through 13 miles. Air high five for awesome strangers!

  16. I’m thankful that my boyfriend is also a graduate student. It is so, so nice to have someone to commiserate (aka bitch) with. He also gives up a crapload of time to proof read my papers, which is basically true love.

  17. I am thankful for my personal trainer. I had 6 really awesome months with him before he decided to move ( lame) 3000 miles away. Im thankful i only cried for a solid 30 seconds before i pulled it together.

    im thankful for the awesome foundation he gave me to work out on my own now. (yikes)

  18. I’m thankful that I noticed your car picture looks like a face! (The RPM-meter/speedometer are the eyes, the steering wheel emblem is the mouth). I’m also thankful for being work and apartment almost-neighbors!

  19. I am thankful (and nervous) for my VERY FIRST MARATHON that I will be running this weekend in Seattle!!! OMG!!! I am thankful that last year I could barely run a mile, and this year I will be running 26.2! :0)

    I am thankful for the running community and the friendships that are formed because of it.

    I am thankful that tomorrow is Friday! WAHOO!

    And obviously I am ever so thankful for my two puppies (that are actually 7 years old) that are sleeping next to my desk while I work…

    1. So exciting! GOOD LUCK! Have an amazing time and please report back! Start slow, finish strong, race happy!

      1. It went pretty well… I was cruising from miles 1-18, at my goal pace and loving it… Then I hit my wall and struggled quite a bit. Damn you Seattle hills!!!! I finished (hooray!!), and my overall time was 4:40:48. My goal time was 4:20, but I will get there next time. The half marathon I ran last month I was able to complete in 1:58, and so I thought the marathon would be comparable… Ah well, I see a lot more races in my future!

        Next time though, I will not go on a brewery tour right after a marathonn…. Refuelling with beer instead of water and rice millk is probably a bad idea.

  20. I’m thankful that Target had work-acceptable, cheap summer dresses so that I could survive this horrific (or pleasant I suppose, depending on who you are…freaks) heat wave in DC.

  21. The grammatical shit show comment and I am hair comment made me spit out my coffee from laughter. Completely. Awesome. I am thankful for friendly runners, cyclists, walkers, etc, active people are much friendlier than sedentary people, that’s for sure! Every so often I like to do some random act of kindness, my favorite? Pay for coffee of the people behind me in the line of the drive-thru at Starbucks. (I live in suburbia). I had it happen to me once and it was a total boost to my day. Maybe you could purchase the fro-yo of the person in line behind you at 16 handles? Happy Thursday!

  22. I am thankful for that song, Call Me Maybe, which helps me run so much faster. I know, right??? But I just like it and listen to on repeat to the point where it’s utterly sickening and then I listen to it again and I’m so happy.

  23. I am thankful for your blog today because it made me smile a lot! Also for speed work which seems to be paying off as I ran faster than normal this morning even though it was already in the 70s at 6:00. And I am extremely thankful for summer vacation (I’m a teacher) and time to run, sit around and read and play on the computer. 🙂

  24. Hahaha the win-win comment made me think of that episode of The Office with the poster of the baby playing the saxophone. So funny!

    I’m thankful that this weekend we will be kicking off summer with the Tim McGraw / Kenny Chesney concert!! I’m also thankful that we are starting to become friends with our neighbors. They are nice. We are having dinner with them next week, they suggested Mexican night, so clearly they are awesome!

    Have so much fun in NH!!! Wish I could join you!

  25. John The Running Man is awesome! I like what he said about training vs. racing in Central Park on his track profile page. I feel the same way about the run/bike path along Lake Mich here in Chicago. I think it is literally impossible to get tired of the views. It is one of the best places to run/train/race… ever! With that being said, I’m thankful that I have such a wonderful place to run everyday! 🙂

    PS: Tyler is so cute!

    1. I bet if you move to NYC, John would want to be your friend, too. Just saying. Bring Baby Elliot.

  26. Your guy on the resevoir actually reminded me when I was running on the National Mall few weeks back. You see, in Wyoming when I run, I see rabbits, dear, horses and cows, maybe some cars, but never any other runners. So every time I passed someone on the trail, which was like every 2-3 minutes, I waived out of midwestern reflexes (we always waive on roads driving). I think I scared a couple of women and even more likely a couple of men. I was laughing at the end of the run and it was sort of a game at the end, see if I could make them smile and waive back.

    I am thankful that my son turned 4 and that my wife and I are kicking butt on working out and losing weight, getting healthier every day, teaching our son how to be the same.

  27. I’m thankful that I just discovered the wonders of Body Glide ON MY FEET. Work shoes that I normally couldn’t wear without stockings? Thing of the past.

  28. This is such a lovely post. I love ‘i am hair’ and I love John, and my friend made amazing macaroons this week with condensed milk and they were phenomenal.

    I am thankful for my new iPhone and Nike Plus as I can finally see how fast I’m running and it’s a little faster than I thought, which is REALLY encouraging.

    I’m thankful for Sinful Colors nail varnish because it’s so cheap and comes in such amazing colours. I own about 20 but they’re so cheap I can keep buying more.

    I’m thankful that my toddler has stopped trying to lick my face when he kisses me. Phew!

  29. So this is my first comment ever, but I’ve got to say I’m thankful that you just blew my mind and informed me that macarOOns and macarOns are two different desserts.

    I’ve been sitting here wondering why those cool coconut balls are called the same thing as the French ones for basically my whole life, never noticing the different spellings. I swear I graduated first grade.

  30. I love when you make friends with a stranger. It always makes me feel like the world is good and wholesome and retores my faith in humanity or whatever. I am thankful I took tomorrow off and will spend three glorious, hot, boozey days on Fire Island! Say hi to Tyler for me! And I guess Ryan and Michaela and Mama and Papa Fell too. Sorry I didn’t put this in an email. Sorry I’m not sorry. Sorry this is the longest comment ever. Love you.

  31. Wow, people are nice in NYC apparantly!! Crazy! Yesterday I ran outside and the humidity was brutal. I was on mile 8 of my 10 mile run and was pretty much dying. I saw a man up ahead of me and I wanted to catch up to him, so I did. I was a few steps behind him and he stopped to walk (he was clearly having trouble getting up a hill) and as I was running by I said “come on catch up to me” and he immediately started running. I said great job and high fived him and off I went. I never say anything unless someone says something to me first and it totally made my day that I got him to run again!

  32. I’m thankful for my new bike! I feel like a complete idiot since I can’t figure out how to get my shoes to easily go in and out of the toe cages.. And I don’t know which of the 27 gears I should be in. All with time though!

  33. Ejoy your trip! I am thankful I spent a long weekend at “home” this past weekend. Running with my dad (who literally ran circles around me…), relaxing + shopping with my mom, seeing my cousins and grandparents, some time at the pool and eating too much = a happy, (mostly) chilled out amy. dreamy.

    I’m also thankful that my mom informed me that her hairdresser would order bulk supply of hair products for me from the wholesaler. Hair products stock (and savings!) are crucial to the life of this curly girl.

  34. I’m thankful I have tomorrow off and Monday starts my next training cycle. So ready to run fast!! I’m glad to hear there are friendly strangers in your hood. With your boosted confidence does this mean you’re going to buy a fancy bike now? Put a basket on it and it can be your getaway vehicle when you “borrow” Tyler 😉

  35. Nice strangers that boost your ego about sports are awesome. My dogs do that for me. That’s why I am taking them mountain biking with me today. They go at my speed and make me feel fast. That’s what I am grateful for.

  36. Those are all great stranger stories, glad none of them turned out to be creepy or scary! I’m thankful that working from home means no one can see me typing away in my undies, and that I can work from home, because freelance jobs are better than no job, and we just bought a house, so any job is good! Happy second day of summer!

  37. Is John single? I want to set him up with my Mom! 🙂

    Seriously, I love when strangers are nice! I still remember after my first triathlon a woman came running up to me and said that I was her “bike pace girl” and that every time she wanted to slow down she kept going to keep up with me. I was like, “me?!” but it made me feel so good that I’m still talking about it 2 years later!

  38. I am so glad you met strangers in the park. When I was running laps of the Harlem Hills on Sunday, some random guy shouted “Grand Prix!” or something random but encouraging on my third lap. That made me feel so awesome. So I’m thankful for that. Anytime I see a girl pushing a stroller I always yell encouragement to them too. I guess I want to be one of the strangers in the park, then…

  39. I love that you made park friends! And so awesome about the guy who noticed you are a runner and offered assistance. I love it.

    I am thankful for placing in a 5K last weekend!!!!!!!!

    I am thankful for running a marathon, which my 5K experience last week made me relive all over again.

    I am thankful for really great opportunities.

    I am thankful for the summer and for relaxing summer getaways.

    I am thankful for outdoor summer concerts.

    I am thankful for hot weather.

    I am thankful for Refine Method.

    I am not thankful for the meeting I am supposed to be at right now so BYE

    1. My meeting got moved to 10:30 so I can fix some of my rushing errors in my earlier comment.. I am thankful for that.

      I am thankful for SMALL RACES that allow me to come in 2nd place. Ali, you would have won that race.

      I am thankful for improving over time.
      I am thankful for my fish, Donna Martin Graduates, who I did not kill and who coincidentally loves the band Phish.

  40. awww those are all cute stranger stories. I have a stranger I’m thankful for. A bartender gave my credit card to a very drunk patron on accident who took my card home with him. But the guy returned it the next day. Isn’t that nice?

    Also, I love the heat too. Bring it on (it remains to be seen if I will still feel this way in August during marathon training though).

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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