Even when done with a team, running is a solo activity. Unlike football, soccer, volleyball, etc., you can’t really lose because your friends, family, or teammates screwed up. You don’t make them outstanding and they don’t make you outstanding. Granted there is some leeway in this when you look at obtaining points for placing in various high school or college races, but ultimately you shine on your own. That’s exactly why I fell in love with running: I controlled my personal outcomes.
But even when it’s ulta-simplified as a solo activity, it’s very much a team sport for the support aspect. When you don’t have support on an official or unofficial basis, it sucks. You might not realize how much it sucks when it’s absent, but let me tell you, when you figure it out… it’s really lonely out there. I recognized it most this past weekend.
Yes, I have a blog that allows me to express my feelings and receive support, backlash, and any other interaction I may (or may not) want. Yes, I have a presence on social media where I can reach out to any number of athletes, sponsored, un-sponsored, elite, or casual and chat about running at all hours. The internet is wonderful, but it can’t replace friends you can see at any given time. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and family as well, but they don’t get it. “How long was your marathon today?” “Are you running a marathon tomorrow?” are questions far too commonly asked by people in my life. While I appreciate their interest, it’s just not the same.
I met three great girls last February who I’d talked to through social media about running – Heather, Laura, and Hollie. We became pretty good friends and I was fortunate enough to visit with all three again this past weekend in Rochester. Until then, I never realized I missed the camaraderie that came along with cross country in high school.
I spent about 24 hours with three avid runners who understand the ups and downs of running. They aren’t casual runners who just head out for 5 miles because exercise is good for you, they want to become better at the sport. They have training plans and they pick races and they run for the months leading up to these races and they do it because they have a goal to meet. When we get together, we talk about life and all these things. Family and friends are great, but the bottom line is they can’t really compare to the things runner friends can give you.
I left the weekend feeling rejuvenated. Sure, I can motivate myself when I pick a race and start to see results in my training. I even get excited about my own training plans when I read blogs about other people’s training plans. I love looking at pictures on Instagram of people I’ve never met crushing their track workouts. Realistically, if I weren’t able to motivate myself, I wouldn’t be doing any of this today. But then there’s part of me that wishes I could take my casual runner friends and turn them into fartlek running, tempo loving, sport enthusiastic nerds. I wish I could sit around and talk about how we can’t get into Born to Run or discuss the way our training has been and what we’re trying to change. It’d be nice to call any of them up for a track workout and be able to bust through some intervals together, motivating each other to hit our splits.
I sound completely melodramatic but that’s the risk you take reading a girl’s blog, whether they’re 12 or 27. I know I could easily fix this – pay Fleet Feet to join their running program (but really, no, thank you) or volunteer at races (working on this – a bad experience ruined a previous event for me). I could even join any of the running clubs locally and make friends, but to me it feels a little more like a sorority than anything. At risk of being offensive to anyone who joined a fraternity or sorority, I’m not into the paying for friends things, which is all it comes off as to me. I have friends who did both and they’re firm in their stance that this is not at all how it was, but that’s a gut feeling I can’t shake. Hopefully this run group with CrossFit will take off and evolve into more, where I will meet other people who are as run-nerdy as I am, but until then I’ll just be working on J. He won’t admit it, but I know he wants to beat that first 5k time from two years ago!