It’s 4:00am. Time to get up and get going. Some days are easy but most are a challenge. Another long and lonely run. 50k of running or hours of pounding the ground by myself. Doesn’t sound like fun does it? So, why do I do it?
I was introduced to running when I was 6 years old. My mom used it to help control my ecessive energy. She would send me to the city park across the street and I would run several laps around it. Even then, I was running alone. I didn’t have any friends and most of the kids in the neighborhood were playing in the park and not running around it. You could say that what I was doing was odd but I began to develop a habit of doing it anyways.
As I kid, I began to play a lot of other sports like baseball, soccer, and basketball. The running still continued and it really helped me excel in those sports. The other sports were social in nature and I liked that as an introvert. It forced me to socialize and make friends. Yet, running was my comfort zone. It was “me” time and it was energizing to just get out there and get lost in my own thoughts.
By Jr. High I was really good at running. So why stop right? When you are running a 5:00 in the mile in 7th grade you get quickly noticed by the coaches. Soon I was running well under that time. In my freshman year I was clocked in 16:01 in the 5k at the first meet of the season. Running kind of became my thing. Even at that time it was a lonely affair though. At practice and at a lot of my races I often found myself running solo. When you like to run fast and are fast, there doesn’t tend to be as much company up front.
My college years were the most shared in terms of running as a social and team experience. There were a lot of good runners to train with and race with. I wasn’t alone in college. College cross-country and track was a collection of the most talented runners all in one space. It was a very rewarding experience. I found lifetime friendships with the runners I ran with in college. However, we don’t live near each other nor do they run anymore. So….my training and running is solo these days.
What about finding and joining a running club? Well…..there are a couple of groups near by but they don’t train and run like I do. When you are throwing down 125 mile weeks and some really fast workouts, you don’t find many who have the same ambitions. Even in the realm of runners, I am an odd one. Running isn’t just something I do for health and I obviously don’t do it for social reasons. So why do I do it?
I love it. It’s physical, emotional, mental and a spiritual experience. It is something that challenges me and grows me in all of those areas. It causes pain but good pain and it is the perfect way to help me refocus in a time where we can get so lost in social media and in the worries of the world. Running has been a good way to unplug from the pandemic and the politics that has swirled around us in the past year. So naturally, running alone has been a great way for me to get the most out of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The challenges keep coming and calling. Running never ends. The goals never stop. Even as I grow older, the way in which I run and the goals I chase are different. I use to run fast and train for shorter races. Winning metals, cash, and knocking down PR’s was fun. Those times are gone now. I have developed a desire for running slower and much….much….well….longer. I don’t care about collecting t-shirts, metals, belt buckles, or even PR’s as much. I just keep wondering what my body is capable of at 40 plus years of age. Running dares me to investigate. However, this investigation is a lonely endeavor. My wife doesn’t run. My kids don’t run. My friends don’t run. And those that I do know that run, again, don’t run like I do. I am crazy committed to not only running but doing it in crazy amounts.
The lonely ultra runner. Sounds depressing but I don’t see it that way. It’s my thing. I chose it. That’s why I will arise way before the sun does tomorrow and run. I know most people won’t understand it or want to do what I do. Yet, I’ll keep exploring my limits nonetheless and I’ll continue to do so even if I am all alone.