I met someone last weekend, a friend of a friend, who had just been convinced to run her first 5k. She claimed that she despised running, saying that when she tries it she feels terrible the entire time she is running, and doesn’t feel any better afterwards.
I feel ya, girl.
Looking back on when I first found the motivation to make myself run, I remember running a mile at a time and feeling absolutely miserable. I loathed the beginning of my runs and just couldn’t imagine how people make themselves do this for longer than 5 minutes at a time.
But before you know it, I was hooked. Trying to explain this to someone who has never run in their life is rather challenging, because it is truly one of those things that you can’t understand until you do it yourself. However, she also said something else that I’ve been thinking about these past few days. Aside from all of her negativity regarding the sport, she told me that “running is a lonely sport”.
Interesting. I’ve heard this many times before, but never really taken the time to reflect on what it means.
I think what she meant by it is that when we think of running, we most frequently think of running as an individual sport. Sure, there are cross country and track teams, where you run with teammates and experience the same sense of camaraderie and support as found in sports like football, soccer, basketball, etc. But when someone takes up running as an adult, they usually take it up by themselves as a way to improve in some aspect of their life.
I have pretty much always been a solo runner. I run my long runs with my mom often, which I love, but the majority of my training runs for this race and all others have been done by myself. Sure, I spent a few trial runs running with college friends, or acquaintances that I had stumbled upon who claimed to love running as well. But the majority of my time has been spent running solo – out of convenience for the most part.
As I was reflecting upon her comment these past few days, it dawned on me that I have never really felt lonely while running. Amidst the hundreds, thousands of miles I’ve put in over these past years as a runner, I have never once found myself feeling lonely.
There is something so comforting in this. Sure, maybe others look at me running on the street and think that I am out there all by myself, but I know the truth. Whether or not I think about it during each run, I know that I am not alone.
Far from it, actually.
I run with you all, every single day. I am out there on my own, putting in my training miles, while you all do the same. The sense of community I feel from running is something that I have never experienced anywhere else; not even in my small hometown, in social groups during college, or with my close friends. This is a community unlike any other.
How is it possible to stand at the starting line of a race, with thousands of other strangers, all talking to their running buddies or the people standing next to them, and never feel alone? In fact, I feel quite the opposite. Standing alone at a starting line makes me feel like I am part of something much greater than myself – whether I’m at a race with 45 people or 45,000 people.
Every day when I hit the roads for my morning miles, I feel that support. I know that I am not alone and that I am doing my part to stay involved in this beautiful community. There is something so absolutely therapeutic about running by yourself but not feeling alone.
Running for myself is something that I do each morning in order to improve; but running with the community on those solo runs is something my spirit so desperately needs. With the news of such awful, terrifying events taking place throughout the world, the running community continues to refresh my faith in humanity and restore my spirit. Even when I am out there by myself, that feeling is found when I see another runner on the road and we exchange a wave or a nod. It is found when I return home to find support on social media. It is found when I google a running question and find thousands of different strangers helping me find the answer. It is found when I am meeting someone for the first time, and immediately form a bond with them over our running hobby.
I truly hope this woman goes on to give running a try, so she can understand this sense of belonging as well. If not, she will never know what she is missing.