“I run… to defy what’s possible…” N.C.
As I’ve become increasingly serious as a runner (and aligned myself with a team), I’ve found myself faced with an ongoing challenge concerning the balance between the community and my own goals, most of which are personal to me, accomplished apart from the pack, and alone.
I’ve told the story of how I came to run with the Whippets; how I had turned my life upside down (again), and was looking for a way out of myself by doing something, ANYTHING, different that would potentially lead me to a new place, and perhaps find the serenity I had been looking for. I found loads of new and crazy pals, who came to be compatriots in the journey toward fitness, self-realization, and fulfillment through our efforts.
Up until recently, running had always been a solitary pursuit. As someone of limited athletic gifts and self-esteem, I was able to find some solace in my ability to put one foot in front of the other, at a pace, over a period of time, and subsequently feel a little better about myself and world for having done so. I passed just enough people and raced just often enough, to know that this was something at which I was maybe a little better than the average bear.
It seems that I am, in fact, quite a bit faster and more expert at this thing than most my age, with little to no background on how to train. Now, while realizing that we on the Whippets utilize a highly effective means of training that over the past months has produced a slew of PR’s that flow, seemingly unabated from race to race (and is essentially the same program used by the Kenyan teams, who have done *ahem* fairly well in competition…), still, I felt that my particular goals would only be truly met with very specific, hands-on training, and so I found myself a personal coach. The challenge going forward would be, therefore: how to maintain and nurture my new relationships while finding the time to take care of my own needs.
As my new schedule evolved, it was made aware to me how my absences from the workouts I had attended, pre-personal coach, were effecting those who had grown fond of me in a relatively short period of time. As I mentioned, these people had become very important to me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. On the other hand, I was being drawn away by the very specific program my coach had designed for me, one that with its adherence would potentially take me to a place I never imagined I would go atop my age group. This would be, even with the support of my new friends, a trip I would have to make alone, and so I began a precarious balancing act between misanthropic loner, and supportive participant.
What is it within some of us that make us feel “apart” from our fellow-man? We run for many reasons, and under a variety of circumstances and emotional states. While we look for and crave community, we are also solitary creatures, we who run.
Whatever the reason, the personal pain and its cleansing effect play an enormous part in my solitary leanings as an athlete. There is no perception of judgment while alone, only the patter of your feet as they hit the pavement, again and again. If you succeed, you know it was due to your efforts; if you fail, you fail alone and with some sense of dignity, however small.
The group dynamic has its own peculiar advantages, especially when the time comes (and it will come, rest assured) and you feel the need to reconnect for a reality check. In my case, as I tend to take up permanent residency in my own head, it helps to have a legion of trusted mates at the ready, who are not shy about giving me their unvarnished opinions, as well as their empathy. Sometimes, it’s as simple as having a personal cheering section, or dinner companions, or even folks to whom to wave “hi” while out in Central Park. It makes being a solitary crank very difficult at times, though I have done my level best to maintain appearances. Lately, I have come to realize that it’s virtually impossible to run intervals at your best as a solo runner; one needs others to push and prod, or even as an audience to our efforts and accomplishments.
I suppose it would take an enormous amount of time to properly dissect and analyze the juxtaposition of the solitary vs. that of the communal, so perhaps the best we can do is put forth the question for our own consideration. When you are running, you are running alone, even as part of a relay. It is in interacting with the energy of like-minded individuals that one gains perspective and is supported in the effort toward their goals, and sometimes it’s even good to see others do well… :). We face the very best and worst of ourselves as we train in isolation; it helps clarify and define us as athletes and people. We come up for scrutiny and evaluation of those efforts while running with friends and compatriots, so that we may adjust and/or be validated. The balance of the two is up to the individual; for me it is constantly evolving… JAK
“This post is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Dashing Whippets Running Team, its board, or its captains.”