We’ve all heard it. “Join a club.” “Find a running buddy.” “Teamwork.”
For thousands–millions–of runners, it’s good advice. That system works. We work together to get the best out of ourselves.
And then there are the lone wolves. The Ben Trues of the world. We run 18 miles unsupported, alone. Nothing but the sun, wind, snow, rain or our own thoughts to keep us company. No conversation to distract us from the hurt. No footsteps and breathing next to us to spur us onward. There is nothing there but ourselves and our wills, which will not let us stop.
I am among this company of free spirits and rebels.
In high school and for a while in 2011, I ran with a running club. How I can recall those long runs among the cornfields and cow pastures with my high school “twin” or the 8-mile tempos through the streets of Bay City with a fast group of guys.
But even then, despite having a team with me, I ran my longest run (13.1 miles) during high school alone. During my stint with the Bay City club, I ran my fastest 8-mile tempo at the time alone when I pulled away from my running partners and ran like hell so the faster guys who started a few minutes after wouldn’t catch me. Only two of them did with less than a mile to go.
Even now I’ve considered running with a local group a few days a week for workouts, but something is holding me back (aside from my new work schedule that doesn’t fit well with the group’s workouts).
It’s not that I hate running with other people all the time–sharing the load can be fun. Training with others is a fantastic way to make new friends and, of course, can make you faster.
Understanding that, I appreciate that my running is mine. It’s the schedule I want and the training program that works for me. I believe in flexibility in my training, to take the days off when I need them and running at the exact pace that’s right for me on the day.
And what is it about me that makes me want to seek my own kind of glory alone?
I’m introverted; running is an opportunity for me to escape from the world and be entirely with my own thoughts. It’s fantastic to not have to be “on” after I’m “on” at work all day.
While I have serious and big goals, running is all about the process for me. I race only a few times a year. Some of my favorite-ever runs have been training runs. Thinking back to my days on teams, there was a pressure there I didn’t like. My job is fairly stressful and requires a great deal of accountability. There’s a lot of pressure. Running with a team means dealing with other people’s expectations of and for me, even if those expectations are largely in my head. Running and racing is freedom; being accountable to a team puts strings on it that I don’t want. I feel pressure very intensely; even now, I’m anxious just thinking about it.
But those solo runs? Peace. Truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I ran with someone.
Being alone and running alone is authentic to me. It’s not necessarily true for all of us that a team situation will make us better.
This one is for the rebels and the lone wolves, who stand apart from the group because that’s where we are at our best. That’s where we thrive.
Never be afraid to go your own way.