26 March 2013

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Does your running sometimes amaze you? Do you sometimes manage to keep up a workrate that you didn't believe possible? Do you ever finish a run and ask yourself where on earth it came from?

If your experience is anything like mine, you'll have had this feeling - perhaps once or twice, perhaps a few times, definitely not very often. It's too special to happen every day. I have particularly had this on club runs, when I have fallen in with someone rather faster than me - and kept up with them. Often left them at the end. It's the very antithesis of social running, but sometimes it's what I feel I need.

Talking to Kerry the other day, over a lunch that I've been looking forward to ever since he phoned me to ask if I would be interested in writing for RW, I was surprised to find that his take on running with people, on socialising on the hoof, was quite different from mine. It never struck me that some people might be so much in the zone that they wouldn't want to be interrupted. Well, it's probably something elite athletes do, but they inhabit a different - not distant, but definitely different - planet, and for me the social side of running has always been essential. Well, nearly always.

Actually, even tonight it was important. I suggested to Kerry that even if one did not speak, the act of running with someone, matching strides, breathing in parallel (or perhaps out of synch), was a form of communing. He didn't seem to agree - but this evening, on the long drag along Audlet Drive/Twelve Acre Drive/Dunmore Road, the last couple of miles of a run far longer than I thought I could comfortably manage, there was something reassuring about the sound of feet behind me. I wasn't talking to the teammate to whom the feet belonged: I had no breath for that. But just to know from the sound of her feet that she was there, that was enough. We hadn't met each other before - she told me after the run that she had only joined the club about five months earlier, and I haven't been out with them much in that time - but we pushed each other to performances far beyond what we thought we could manage: and the feeling that gives you is priceless. I have a sense that I can achieve something big now: but the most important thing is to keep up the running, stay in this zone, hang onto these positive vibrations.

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