The Loneliness of Running

I have been meaning to write about my trip to San Francisco and Sonoma but I think my pictures actually do my trip justice and act as a bit of a picture diary.  So instead, inspired by my run this morning and my new running habit of no music, I wanted to write about what running means to me now and how I got here….

I used to hate running.  I mean just despise it.  When I was in junior high I attempted to be a semi-long distance runner on the spring track team.  My race was the 800m.  And I hated every minute of it.  But I stuck out the season, including one race that got me in the town newspaper.  After the first 400m of my race, I actually stopped, threw-up to the side, and then ran the remaining 400m.  True story.  Racing made me very anxious.  End of story.

Fast forward to 2007.  I was living in London and was training to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Since I wasn’t able to get to a lot of mountains, I started running a bit to get my lungs healthier.  Two years later I would run my first half-marathon in Hastings, UK.  It was a gorgeous course but it was up and down hills and at the end I swore I was never doing something like that again.

And then I moved back to Boston and ran the Boston Half Marathon, twice. 🙂

Earlier this year I decided it was time to finally try a full marathon.  I was almost done with my MLIS, I only had one wedding to attend in June, and I knew I’d be itching for the “next thing.”  So I went ahead and signed up to run the NYC 2011 Marathon with Fred’s Team.

I’m about 5 weeks into my training.  My long run on Saturdays is up to 9 miles.  A few weeks ago, my iShuffle disappeared so I started running without music.  And that’s when running and my training started to take on a whole new meaning….

Running at 6am alone with the city and your thoughts can be scary.  But it can also be very freeing.  The other morning I woke up in near tears due to a lot of different things going on with me.  But it was time for a run.  Throughout the next 40 minutes or so, I managed to work a lot out in my mind.  By the end of the run I had come up with about 5 action items to help me sort out some things.  And I had seen the sun come up over the Citgo sign [incredible picture courtesy of md91180 on flickr].  Pretty fantastic way to start the day.

Running, as I experienced this past week, can be lonely and filled with time with your thoughts, which again, can be rather frightening.  But I’ve also experienced, as I raise money for Fred’s Team, this incredible feeling that I’m not entirely alone.  My friends, both virtually and in real life, along with my family, have been so supportive, both financially and emotionally already, with the marathon still 4 months out.   I am so anxious and excited to see what the next months of training bring.

I am sure that I will be afraid, exhausted, thrilled, happy, spent, overcome, and more.  I am sure that I will go between enjoying the loneliness of running to wishing I could have someone push me along.  I am sure I will wonder if I should incorporate music back into my runs or if I get more out of the experience by listening to the beat of my shoes on the pavement and the thoughts in my head.

I am sure it will all be an experience I won’t be likely to forget.  And I thank you all for joining me on the journey.


6 responses to “The Loneliness of Running

  1. I hate running, I still do, but I think it’s a great way to clear your head. I’m about to attempt a very long bike ride, to see if I can get the same head clearing effect.

  2. Whether or not I take music with me depends on my mood or if I have a problem to work out. If I am trail running, I never use music. I feel like it ruins the experience somehow.

    Nothing beats a good morning run. It sets the day up perfectly. I have never run a marathon; races aren’t my thing (see my blog post: Thoughts on Running…). However, I know the training and the determination involved. I wish you more than luck. I can recommend some good movies/books if you ever need some running inspiration.

    • Thank you for sharing your post Ben….you said so much of what I was trying to say here but was having a hard time expressing. As I said, races used to make me so anxious. And I don’t do a ton of them. But for me, they have become about a goal for myself, and now have very little to do with the others racing around me. However, I do know that the reason I chose the NYC marathon over the hundreds of others is because I am looking forward to the crowds and the support that brings. But it’s funny, how until that day, I look forward to my solo runs.

  3. Yay! Writing about running!

    I’ve stopped running with music about 90% of the time, as I wanted to pay more attention to my form. I found music was a distraction, although I generally like it when I have a tempo workout to do. The BPM help me run fast.

    Your comments about having so much on your mind and using the run to work out it is right on. It’s as if we are free of the normal confines and our mind can wander and be creative. I’ve also always loved early morning runs before people woke up, when the paths were filled with sleepyheaded runners. It feels like such a sense of accomplishment.

    Run soon!

  4. Great post. I used to run with no music, now run with music and may go back. You’ve given me food for thought.

  5. Pingback: “Are you enjoying it?” | Living the Dream

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