Sunday, April 13, 2008

Running Alone

Earlier this week, one of my Twitter friends asked me if I trained alone. I felt a little awkward replying nobody. It's not that I'm opposed to the camaraderie of running, but I don't have any friends here to run with on a regular basis. It hasn't always been that way. I have great memories of long runs with Stroh of Arabia, particularly when we'd head north and explore the top bits of Manhattan. We even ran two 50Ks together, which are among my fondest running memories.

It got me thinking during my long run about running alone. One of the things I like most about running, particularly long distances, is it's disarmingly personal and solitary. Anyone who has run over 20 miles knows this. Go to a marathon, set up shop around mile 22, and look into the eyes of the people going past you. While the cheering and crowds might help, the real battle is personal. They're totally alone, in many ways, confronting uncomfortable truths, like the overwhelming fatigue that inevitably makes them want to quit. But most don't. That's overcoming the Internal Pigdog. Today, I set off for Central Park by myself to run 20 miles. I've done this literally dozens of times, yet it unnerves me each time starting out. I wonder how I'll deal with the discomfort and fatigue. The marathon only heightens this, with the fear of failure always lurking in the background. Tim Noakes wrote some very true (if overly wrought) words about this in his awesome Lore of Running:
Running provides complete solitude. Even in the most crowded races, we reach points where fatigue drives each of us back into ourselves, into those secluded parts of our spirit that we discover only during times of durress and from we we emerge with clearer perspectives of who we truly are.
20.2 miles, 2:27

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