Training for any kind of race is a lonely endeavor. Even when you surround yourself with other runners or have the encouraging support of a friend or the loyalty of a coach, at some point we all realize the sad truth: no one really gives a flying fig about our training except us. And every step we take is ours alone. It’s both scary and the entire point of running.
Here’s some thoughts I had last year during my training for The Fifth Avenue Mile, the first competitive mile I would run in over 30 years:
Being on my own is a scary thing to face every morning when I wake up. I start each morning with the same thoughts that hit me as I wake:
1. Where am I?
2. Am I alone?
3. What’s about to go wrong next?
Because of running, being alone is not something new for me, but it is something that is still taking getting used to. It’s of course, a perfect place for a runner to be. Alone is a place I’ve sought, possibly even what brought me to running in the first place. The lonely romantic struggle of the long distance runner. Alone against all odds, persevering against the body’s will, to endure nature’s elements and fight off gravity with every raised leg. There was a freedom in running away from the raised eyebrows of the townspeople when I was a teenager– why would a kid want to run by himself on the side of the road leading out of town, then just turn around and run back?
Now, it’s the liberty to run toward something unknown– a new, perhaps even better, life.
Back then, I conformed to get good grades and positive attention on the outside, but inside I was happiest when I could be apart, be different. To be alone on the shoulder of that road from time-to-time. No running partners. No coach. No plan. No intervals. No watch. No GPS. No electrolytes or recovery bars. No wicking fabrics. For some years, not even running shoes, just sneaks. This was pre-iPod, pre-waffle shoe, pre-Pre.
Alone. The good kind of alone.
Do you like to run alone? Has that changed as you’ve gotten older?