One of the things I like best about running is it gives me time for two of the things I have next to zero time to do: spend time alone and spend time with my friends. When I started running a few years ago, I always ran alone. I think this was for two reasons: (1) I didn’t have any friends at that time who were runners (at least not who lived in close proximity to me), and (2) I was so stinkin’ slow and insecure about how red-faced and sweaty I looked as I was gasping for breath with darn near every step. I trained for a sprint triathlon and two half marathons before I ever ran a step with someone beside me. Now that I treasure each mile and each minute with my BRFs, in retrospect I wonder how in the world I did that — how did I have the motivation to stick with the training when there was no one but the voice in my head to encourage me (trust me, it was telling me to run to pick up a Shamrock Shake and sit on a park bench just as often as it was telling me to keep going)?! You’ve heard…I’ve heard…now I know…that a significant chunk of running and training for a goal distance or race is mental. I think that’s what my first couple years of running was all about…my near-pathological need to set goals and achieve them…it was all mental (and I’m darn near crazy, believe me). I’m typically not short on ambition, and I’m not known to set the bar low (I would really do myself some favors if I did that a little more often, though). I’m hard on myself…I don’t cut myself much slack…and I almost never stop and think to reward myself — just push harder. I saw a quote today that was a good reminder:
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
Back to the two things I enjoy…that I indulge in while I run…
Me time. I don’t even get that in the bathroom at home. Even if I lock the door, more often than not someone is pounding on it, demanding my attention, whining at the doorknob. It has taken me quite some time to realize that I actually really like some alone time to think, reflect, sort things out, or sometimes just plain lose myself in the absolute lack of necessity to think of anything more complicated than putting one foot in front of the other. I spend the vast majority of my life surrounding myself with people…sometimes to avoid what I really need…to be alone. Solitary runs have allowed me to sort through conflicting feelings, map out and rehearse conversations on tough topics, and given me time to brainstorm about ideas about anything from family vacations to redesigning the courses I teach. And sometimes instead of thinking, I spend the time on more mindless things…like actually paying attention to the words on the songs on my iPod playlist (and more often than not realizing that I really *shouldn’t* be letting my children listen to them too), counting footfalls and calculating my running cadence (that’s a new one this year…great…something new to obsess about!), or catching up on podcasts that I otherwise have no time to listen to (my favorites: from NRP there’s Science Friday and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and now I’m working my way through the Another Mother Runner podcasts). I think I’m going to have to figure out a way to get audiobooks on my iPod too…I would love for someone to tell me a story while I run!
BRF time. Again…how in the world did I have the courage to get started and the encouragement to keep going without the incredible support network that I now have?! By pure serendipity I found an amazing group of women a couple years ago when a flyer for a “Kids on the Run” program came home in my daughter’s folder from school. I went to the website…liked the kids programs…and then discovered that the “parent” organization was aptly named “Moms on the Run .” Heck with the kids’ program — this suddenly became all about me! In less than two years I have made some amazing friends, been part of a ridiculous amount of goal setting and goal crushing (not always my goals, by the way) by some of the most amazing women, and realized that running is so so so much more than a solitary activity. Sometimes it’s nice to be a lone wolf, but there’s a reason wolves are happier and healthier in packs, I think.
It’s hard for me to explain why I love to run. Why I need to run. Sometimes I need those solitary runs to sort out exactly what it is…Is it simply the solitude? (yes) Is it the endorphins? (yes) Is it the mental game of doing something I wasn’t entirely sure I could and then realizing I can? (yes) Is it a reason to take a break and check out of the day to day stress and chaos that is my life? (yes) Is it the calories I burn that allow me to feel a little less guilty about the occasional cookie or beer (those are enjoyed on separate occasions, not together, by the way)? (yes) Is it the enjoyment and fulfillment I get from running with women who have similar stresses, similar chaos, and the camaraderie that comes with enjoying time together during which we don’t have to worry about how we measure up? (yes) Is it the chance to discuss parenting challenges we’re facing? (yes) Is it the chance to vent about relationship challenges with our spouses? (yes) Is it the chance to relish the beauty of simple things around us we don’t have time to notice when we’re shuttling kids around? (yes) Is there a single, simple answer to the question of why I both enjoy and need my miles? (no) Can those closest to me understand this personality quirk that has emerged in my late 30s? (I hope so)