Birds of a Feather

Running is a solitary sport. Both the successes and the failures are yours alone, and the point is to push your personal limits. It’s just you and the road. No one can run the miles for you. While there are any number of community running groups or potential running buddies, the logistics of finding a compatible match with the same pace, goals, and schedule can be nearly impossible. As a result, running provides a significant amount of alone time. For the most part, I like this. I appreciate having the time to clear my head and decompress. I cherish my Friday nights in, and the Saturday morning pre-run routine gives me a sense of calm and order.

There can be a fine line between independence and isolation, though. The physical act of running aside, training means saying no to social events the night before a long run and frequently bailing on plans due to exhaustion on the evening afterwards. Training means embracing a certain level of solitude.

Yesterday morning I set out on my own. My goal was to run 17 miles by completing four 4.25 mile loops. The weather was lovely and cool when I began, and the first loop was no problem. During the second loop, however, the clouds broke and the sun beat down much hotter than I was prepared to handle. I took an unplanned pitstop at mile 6 to sit in the shade for minute, then I struggled to finish the lap. I strongly considered calling it at 8.5 miles. After stopping again to hydrate and refuel, I reached out to some friends and ask for a boost. Before I knew it, I had a flurry of encouraging words assuring me that I had what it takes to finish this run. They told me I was strong, and I believed them. They reminded me to focus on one mile at a time, so I kept my blinders on and kept moving forward. They suggested mental games to distract myself, and I spent at least a mile and a half recasting a modern day Heathers (Saoirse Ronan in the Winona Ryder role, Timothee Chalamet in the Christian Slayter role, and Vanessa Hudgens in the Shannen Doherty role).

I talk a big game about positivity and discipline, but when I’m in the thick of a difficult run, it’s hard to turn that ship around. Thanks to some outside assistance, however, I finished all 17 miles despite the rough spots. It’s humbling to publicly admit that you need help, but I’m glad I did. Asking for help doesn’t change the number of miles I covered, nor does it change my relationship with running. We all like to project an image of confidence and control, but in reality most days I’m either winging it or scraping by on luck. It’s good to be reminded that we’re not in this alone. More people are rooting for us than we realize, and we can pull from that collective strength to keep going.

As solitary as running can feel, there’s a full community of support behind the scenes. I am immensely grateful for the boost I received, and I’m happy to return the favor anytime someone else needs a pep talk. Ask for help. It’s okay. We run those miles independently, but we’re never truly alone.

4 thoughts on “Birds of a Feather

  1. That all reminds me of the movie that was quite famous in Europe in 1962: “The loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”. “In the end, the runner is always alone and cut off from spectators, left to deal with life on his own.” – that is the motto of the movie, for the reasons that neither I nor Kate can identify with. We have entirely different life circumstances. But the movie talks about solitude and running!

    Undeniably, there is some association between solitude and long distance running, and yet… I keep reading and re-reading the post… it makes me sort of admiring it but at the same time – unsettled. I like it and feel opposed to some statements at the same time. Almost funny to have such opposite feelings – only good writing can evoke it. I feel like posting much more on the same topic. Running is so many things to so many people…

    1. It truly is so many things to so many people, which is what makes it so wonderful. We can love the same sport for entirely different reasons and still admire each other’s unique strength and dedication! ❤

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