The gun went off and the crowd went wild; a typical scene of a running event starting. There, far back into the pack, surrounded by a couple of thousand pair of legs with a plan in their minds, it was I. Deeply unsure about how would I face the next two hours.
As part of my training plan for an upcoming marathon, this was supposed to be a 21k “fit test”, meaning, a run-as-fast-as-you-can-but-making-sure-you-finish effort, with the objective of gauging my on track-ness towards a preset goal.
But there was a problem: this morning I didn’t feel like pushing, I felt more like chatting.
From the three friends there, pace wise, I’m in the one in middle, so pursuing the fit test today would have meant running without them. I do enjoy runs in solitary, especially before dawn or in trails, but today was certainly not the case. So I chose to run with the my friend who’s slightly slower than me, sticking to his pace and impregnated by his excitement about running what in three weeks from now will be his first full distance marathon. We cruised the course talking about all and about nothing; secretly bragging about the wonders our training plans have done for us and cheering some in evident struggle. During the two hours the run lasted (ok, ok, a bit more…) and while annoying my friend with my incessant talking, I realized that running, to me, it’s a social act; and that I take pleasure from interacting with others while running. It’s my way to say that I care.
We ran and enjoyed dragged by the energy created when thousands of people share the street with the purpose of doing something positive for them and for the others. By the time we crossed the finish line, I awkwardly had the feeling it was I taking home the trophy. And in a way I did.
This morning I won an additional drop of realization about the reasons that push me to wake up at indecently early hours, to cover my nipples with Band-Aids, to apply industrial ointments on parts of my body I will not name, and to start putting one foot in front of the other wearing a Batman-style belt. I enjoy speed and the excitement of pushing the limits and finishing a rep at the near-to-puke point. But when it is about long, or longer distances, it would be me running free, seizing the moment and letting go, heightened by the scenery and the people around me.
Even if I knew this before, today I understood that I love to run ’cause it gives me the gift of belonging, of community. It allows me to feel useful and part of something bigger, like supporting others to discover running and to get to love it as much as I do. It also helps me to connect with myself through my connection to others. I guess it’s quite a prize for something free and widely available to all of us.
In the words of Sakyong Mipham Rimpoche, a high lama in Tibetan Buddhism and avid runner: “This communal and social expression (interacting with others while running) is an opportunity to share the basic goodness of humanity”.