Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Solitary Until It Isn't

A good friend recently told me he is training for his first marathon. I was ecstatic. He told me this at a party, so I responded how any rational runner would -- by completely ignoring everyone else and geeking out about marathon minutiae. We talked about shoes. We talked about diet. We talked about spreadsheets. We talked about unpleasant bodily reactions. We knew we were being rude. We didn't care.

So much of running is solitary. There are nights at home, opting to rest before a long run rather than go out with friends. There are cold, early mornings while your partner sleeps in but you are lacing up your shoes. There are quiet miles with nothing to motivate you but your mind. Marathon training is all-consuming. It's all you can talk about, but very few people want to listen. Despite their good intentions, not many loved ones actually care about your negative splits or hill workouts. (They'll listen because they love you, so be sure to return the favor when they want to talk about fantasy football or band practice).

It's a solitary event...until it isn't.  

With one conversation, my friend and I were in it together. He instantly had an ally for all the pain and the excitement, and I had a fresh excitement for the sport. The running community is large and strong. We all have our own story and our own reason for running, but the experiences are parallel. We care about the process, and we care about each other. 

I'm so excited for my friend. He'll be exhausted. He'll be sore. He'll know deeper pain and greater euphoria than most people experience. His life is going to change, and he's working toward a goal he can be proud of the rest of his life. 

By running a marathon, you are part of something much bigger than yourself. 

Good luck to you, buddy. 


  1. Do you watch people's eyes glaze over as you talk marathon the way I do while talking greyhounds or quilts? Sometimes I talk just to watch someone's brain go in & out of focus.

  2. You know, depending on the context, not sure I would count this as rude. Parties are there for socializing, and what better way than to get completely engrossed in involved common geekery? Maybe I'm just being self-righteous, as I've been in this same position about home brewing beer, German Shorthair Pointers, ice fishing...etc.

    My best guess is that it's just a product of our increasingly hipster-prone generation. We try painfully to be individuals, but secretly yearn to be validated by people marveling at or agreeing to "talking shop" about our quirks.

    Either way, more power to you and your buddy. I really wish I could catch the "running bug"...but video games, beer, and chili-cheese fritos bark far louder than coughing and weezing for 4 miles / 45 minutes (whichever comes first).

    I don't know. Something something, Obama's fault. :)

    1. Thanks, Nick! Good to hear from you :) You bring up a really good point about the balance everyone wants between being unique and fitting in. You're right about how validating it is to "talk shop." After spending so much time on a hobby or skill, it's comforting to be able to connect with someone and remember why you started in the first place.