Thursday, November 4, 2010

How Do You Like Your Running?

My first experience as a runner was my freshman year of high school when I joined the cross country team.  Before then I would run random races that my grandfather entered me in or I'd race kids at recess to see who was the fastest but I didn't truly define myself as a runner until I discovered what it was like to feel like running was part of me.  For the first time in my life I felt like I was doing something that I was born to do.  Running filled a part of me that had never been filled.

For the next eight years I ran competitively on the track and cross country teams in high school and college.  I knew I loved to run and running helped keep me balanced and focused on my goals.  It was a way for me to release stress, deal with the emotional changes that came from adolescence, and feel centered and  in control when everything else in my life seemed the opposite.  Although I loved running and how it made me feel, it started to feel more like work.  Being on a team, having practice every day, and racing every weekend made me feel more stressed than anything.  Running became more of an obligation than a joy, and with it came the pressure to perform and live up to something I wasn't emotionally prepared for.  I felt like I always had a nervous ball in in my stomach during track and cross country season.  Every track workout felt like something I wanted to get over with instead of something I looked forward to.  I felt sick the night before races and that nervous feeling and dread continued until the race was over.  I never got into a groove where my emotional level matched my physical level.  Because of everything I was working through in life, I wasn't able to let my mind go and perform like I wanted to.  Running became a chore.  A way to pay for school.  Something on a to-do list.  Every race down was a relief until the next one came.  I hated the competition...with myself, my teammates, and the runners I raced against. 

After college is when I truly discovered what it felt to run because I wanted to.  It was the first time that I ran for ME!  I ran because I felt alive and happy.  I ran against nobody but myself.  I ran because I wanted to.  I raced because it was fun.  I found running to be an almost spiritual experience.  Some days when I'd go out in Forest Park for a long run by myself, I would feel like I was in a prayer.  It was the best form of therapy I could find.  I was finally at a place where I had worked through so much of the emotional baggage that I carried for so long.  I loved myself and my life. Finally, running was simply something I did for JOY!  I began running the times I had never been able to push myself to do before.  I was easing past barriers that I didn't know I could reach and I did it with effortlessness. 

Running is something I enjoy doing alone.  I prefer to run in solitude rather than with a pack or a running partner.  I love being alone on the road, feeling the wind in my hair, feeling my heart beat, hearing my breath and listening to what my heart and mind have to tell me.  I love the time it gives me to process my life, connect with God, let go of pain and stress and come back to myself. 

My preference to run alone may come across to some as me being a running snob. I hope not. I'm not entirely a solo runner.   Even though I much prefer to train alone, there are also times I enjoy running with a partner.  This is true especially on really long runs when I'm training for a marathon and I will practically beg my friend Jen to come keep me company to make the miles pass by. 

 Having my husband train with me when I was running my first and second marathons was wonderful too.  We eventually grew to be perfect running partners.  He knew just what gave me strength and what took energy away.  I became used to his breathing and stride and I enjoyed every run with him.  And then kids came.  Now I don't always have the choice of running alone.  Many of my runs are with a double jogger and little girl on a bike leading the way. 

 The past few days, I've been reflecting on why this preference for solitude is.  Do other runners feel this way too?  I think a huge part of my desire to train alone most of the time is because of the emotional memories I associate with training competitively for eight years.  I think I'm scared to feel like running is a chore again.  I'm scared of feeling nervous before every practice and feeling pressure to perform.  I know that things have changed since then.  I'm not the same person.  Perhaps running with a group or finding a compatible partner  to train regularly with would be good for my growth as an athlete.  In fact, I'm considering joining Team Athena, a woman's running club here in Portland.  I think getting out of my solo running sometimes will push me a bit.  Will it change my preference for training alone?  Perhaps.  Only time will tell. 

What about you?  How do you like your running?



  1. I wish I like running solo more than I do. I think I am partial against it because I have such a great training partner. We do the vast majority of our runs together and have a very similar pace. It's pretty much the perfect situation. Plus, we have a whole group of runners who join us here and there. It's so nice to have a supportive community of runners.

  2. I like my shorter runs during the week to be solo. It is easier since there is no coordinating and I use it as my alone to time and to reconnect with myself. On long runs I prefer to run with a partner. I did all of my long training runs for my first 4 halfs with my sister in law. It was wonderful... we were the same pace and we were to chat the whole time. Unfortnately she found a new running partner near her house and I am solo again. I would love to find a running partner again but I have had some struggle with this.

    So to answer your question I like but solo and partner running.

  3. I'm primarily a solo runner and I like it that way. Both long and short runs. I like thinking and being by myself. Running with someone better though (my boyfriend) has helped me become faster but I don't like all my runs with him.

  4. I ran cross country in high school too, but absolutely loved it. I could have gotten a scholarship to run competitively in college, but decided against it b/c I was afraid it would turn into a type of "job"...kind of like what you described it was for you. I loved running and I didn't want it to turn into something I dreaded.

    Like you, I love to run alone too. Running is what I consider to be "my time." I am a mother and a wife 24 hours a day, every day. But, when I run, I'm Aimee. It's awesome and it's one reason why I love it so much.
    However, I do like to run with others every once in awhile. I really like running with my husband when we get the chance, and I also like to run with my boys in the jogger. I would like to have a running partner for some of my longer runs, but I just haven't found one yet!

  5. My favorite runs are with JUST my hubby and jogging stroller and no kids on bikes. I love the time together. Best dates we have. But our typical run is done while our big kids are at school but still have the two little ones who get put in the double jogger. (I never have to push it though) =)

  6. Interesting post! I'm a bit of a loner! I don't mind the occasional run with a friend but when I'm in a training plan and aiming for specific workouts I pretty much like to be on my own! Me time! We live in a small town and don't really have the option of a running club. I'm sure it would be helpful to match up with other runners around the same pace. My hubby also runs. He's faster than me and it would probably be to my benefit to "use" him-ha! We get along great but rarely run together!

    I really enjoyed this post and your whole blog!

  7. I used to do all my runs with others and now I do 90% alone. I think I prefer one run a week with others and the rest of the time solo.

  8. I'm a solo runner. I don't really know any other runners here in my town (I'm in Southern Oregon ... but not too far south -- the 'Burg that starts with an R.) :) I like going alone because then I am my own boss. But I love the atmosphere of a race and all of those people. It always gives me a little boost and makes me push myself harder.