Running is a solitary activity for me. I enjoy the camaraderie of racing and feeding off of the energy of people who love this sport as much as I do, but I put in my training miles on my own with only rare exceptions. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still need running buddies.
One of my dearest running friends is someone I don’t see often, but I reflect fondly on the time she donned a pig suit to meet me in the final miles of a marathon (and I mistook someone else on the course in the same pig suit for her, hollering my hellos at the other swine suit until I spotted its unfamiliar sneakers), the time she paced me during a 10k in which I carried a flag, handing me water I couldn’t easily grab on my own, and the time we posed with goofy hats and accessories at the Rock ‘n Roll USA race expo.
This weekend she planned a long run so she could see me near the halfway point of the Stone Mill 50 Miler. I let her know right away when I sprained my ankle near mile 18 that my day was over and I’d miss her. In the days since, she’s been very positive and encouraging, checking in with me via text to see how I am feeling (both emotionally with regards to the DNF and physically). I’m not really bummed, since I know that dropping out of the race when I was injured was the smart choice, but it still helps to hear kind words from a fellow runner who understands the frustration of being unable to run (next person who asks me what happened will hear a tall tale of how I fought and defeated a bear – I’m that tired of telling my sprain story).
Most recently, our conversations have turned from planned races (there’s always another race, even for the humbled and hobbled!) to our philosophies about running. We’re both of the opinion that a low-key approach makes both running and racing more fun. To a certain extent, it’s fun to ‘science’ running – to try various gear combinations, training methods, nutrition plans, race strategies, etc. to try to optimize performance, but at the end of the day, performance isn’t what it’s all about. Running should be fun. Granted, performing at or close to your best can be fun, but if you’re moaning and groaning about missing a new PR because you couldn’t run tangents in a race, are you having fun? A race is a snapshot of your running life and it may not be a fully representative snapshot. On any other day, you would’ve nailed that PR, no sweat, but today wasn’t any other day, it was race day, and your legs were smoked with five miles still to go. It’s crucial to love the running that you do before you cross the start line. Without that boundless love for running, there is too much pressure to achieve perfection in the race. If you hate lacing up before sunrise but do it because you’re a slave to shaving seconds off of your time, when you bonk on race day it feels like a failure. Once you’ve missed your time goal, if you don’t love just plain running, how do you find joy in a race? What’s the point if at the end of the day you’re not running for the fun of it? Take back your life and engage in a hobby you actually enjoy!
What I’m not doing right now is fretting about losing fitness or speed – I’m just disappointed to be missing out on the fun I have running. When I’m back on my feet, I’m keen to (safely) pour on the mileage, making sure to savor every bit of it.