Friday, October 11, 2013

The Running Emotions - What's a mile between friends?

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you”
~ Roger Ebert ~

Earlier I touched on the fact that once you change your behavior the things around you begin to change to fit your new situation. I realize now that running and more specifically distance running was in perfect alignment with my new path. I have met and read about some of the most compassionate people since getting involved in running. Like any other activity there are some who are only in it for the glory, the metals or sponsorship, but they are the minority. I have found that most people who run regularly are compassionate and caring people. There are many reasons that people get involved in running. Somehow we seem to understand that whether we show it or not, everyone is fighting a personal battle we may know nothing about. We understand the thoughts and feelings we try to think about and the ones we are trying to get away from. All of this while riding a rollercoaster of emotions that can accompany us on a long run.  The funny thing about it seems to be the longer and harder distances people run, the friendlier and more compassionate they are. I hear stories all the time about ultra runners stopping during a race to encourage another runner or loaning them supplies so they can finish. The fact is that finishers at some 100 milers receive a belt buckle and not even a metal, and they are happy about it. The other thing about trail running and ultras are that they them runs even though they are technically still races. It is a very different mentality than road racing.

Once you get to a certain point, the layers of perception that time has labeled you with fall away and you are just you. Some of the best, clearest and most honest moments I have experienced were during or right after a long run. You begin to feel more alive, colors explode and you notice sounds and smells that you might have missed otherwise. When you are running with a good friend and these events occur it leads to special moments when you are open to conversation and ideas that sometimes are spoken and other times simply understood. You know when to speak and when to listen and when to be quiet and simply be. I am not sure exactly what causes this, whether it is more of a chemical release or a cognitive process or both, but running will illicit many emotions. I like to compare the process to weight training; you have to tear down to build up. You must break through the barriers (or the parts that suck) and let it tear you down to get to the rebuilding stage.    

A shining example to the character of ultra running is Scott Jurek. He is one of the top ultra runners in the world and one of the most humble, normal seeming athletes in the world. He has won or placed in a number of top 100 milers and at the end of every race he completes he stays at the finish line until the last runner comes across to support and represent the sport he loves. Keep in mind in the 2013 Leadville 100 he finished in around twenty hours and the race cutoff is thirty hours. If that is not a compassionate and caring person I don’t know what is. He does not jump in front of every camera or pimp himself out to every sponsor like a lot of athletes would do.

On a smaller level people in running groups or friends that you run with often adjust their pace or schedule to include everyone. I personally enjoy being outside and interacting with other runners or walkers or people out in their yards and even the guy in the barbershop who may be thinking ‘who is this guy and why does he wave at me?’ It is nice to feel like a part of the universe and to know that I am not alone even though I may be by myself. Another great thing about running is that even if you are running with a group, you can still at some point in the run retreat inside yourself. Trust me this is not the same as being alone in a crowd; it is people giving you space to be alone while being surrounded by people. I made a comment one time and then realized it summed up how we felt about each other when I was planning my final run for the WWP 1000 miles and some friends were going to join me. I had an eight mile route planned and one of them was doing marathon training and needed nine miles that day so I shortened my run before that and made the last one nine miles and said “what’s a mile between friends.” It was not meant to be profound but it summed it up nicely. That is a good feeling. On your next run try to let go of the image of what everyone sees and let you shine through. Let down your guard and let your mind go and allow yourself to be introduced to the real you.

But, don’t forget to look both ways. And, enjoy your run!
I would love to here your stories and observations on this subject.

2 comments:

  1. I love the "runners nod" when passing other runners...doesn't matter the pace you are going but as long as you're doing it..there is the nod. What is scary is when I'm doing a long run and get the "doing great" comments from runners passing me..it means I probably look like I need it..which is great..and sad at the same time...however I'm just as quick to offer it when I feel someone else needs it. It's that subtle sense of community that really helps you push through

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    1. I know not everyone is comfortable around people they don't know but I get a little disappointed when I acknowledge someone and they don't respond at all. I too question/appreciate a kind word and usually need it!
      Thanks for the input.

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