There’s something about living the romantic ideal of the lonely distance runner that wears thin after a while. Yes, there’s a certain feeling of accomplishment waking up in the wee hours of the morning to grind out a few miles all by yourself before going to work each day. But over time, toiling in obscurity day after day gets monotonous and boring, no matter how hard you try to shake things up.
Back in my high school and college days on the track and cross-country teams, there was a whole bunch of people to run with. Running together and pushing each other to greater heights was a big part of what made running on a team great. After my school days were over, there would be times I’d join up with a group of runners on regular basis, usually meeting on the track or on the trails for some pretty hard work-outs. These small training groups were pretty fragile. What kept them together was everyone was at roughly the same ability and dedication level. Inevitably when there’d be injuries, changes in jobs or family life, or some would decide to back off of running for while, a few months later we’d all start going our separate ways and the workouts would fall apart.
But during those brief fleeting moments, some pretty strong bonds were forged between us silently as pushed each other on the track, with little more than a breathless “Nice job” when the workout was over before we’d to jump back into our cars and drive off to rejoin for the real world. As much as I miss those days, getting up really early in the morning to bash out a bunch of intervals on the track or storm up a bunch of hills on the trails no longer sounds all the inviting. Strangely, a morning spent with my wife and kids eating pancakes and sausage for breakfast sounds a lot better. But the day I stop running is the day I die, so I still keep at it, going it alone most mornings.
But now, I’ve found a good crew to run with, having recently joined the Palo Alto Run Club. It’s a little more casual than the harder core training groups I’ve run with, and we meet during the evenings, which I appreciate since having my alarm clock waking me up 5:15 am to go running is not something I’m going to miss. But lest you think these guys are soft, I’ve met some of the nicest, friendliest guys who can grind me into a pulp on the roads. Of course, before and after hitting the roads, we talk about races and runs, not to mention other random subjects that come up when a bunch of people get together. Running with others helps push you to great heights you couldn’t reach running by yourself. Running all by yourself with no one else around will eventually drive you insane.
One of the things I enjoy about running is in a race, you’re on an island fighting the masses to the finish line, only relying on yourself to get the job done. Of course, this is why a lot of people hate running. But thankfully, we don’t live on islands alone in this world. There are others to pick us up when we need it, to share experiences, and even exchange in odd inane banter that is part of being human. Which is why we all need a crew to run with. I’m thankful I’ve found one.