There was a time when I could only run alone.
I only wanted to run alone.
I spent most of my life only running alone.
I didn’t like the “pressure” of running with other people.
But over the last few years, I’ve learned to love running with other people.
I only want to run with other people.
I don’t like the complete lack of motivation from running alone.
And now I’m forced to run alone. Mostly.
(Seriously. I don’t even know. My brain and body are so confused by everything going on right now.)
And when I run alone. I mostly just struggle to go the distance I committed to before starting out.
Committed is probably a strong word.
The distance I suggested to myself.
And pace is never a thought.
I don’t consider pace. When I run alone. Ever.
Back when I lived in Pennsylvania, a friend saw me out running once. He later described me as a reluctant runner.
He said I looked like a reluctant runner.
Oh, that’s not just a look, buddy. That description runs deep.
I’m reluctant as hell about running.
And the more my body breaks down. The more reluctant I become.
So even though I have more time to run. And workout. Right now.
I’m basically becoming more lethargic. An increasingly reluctant runner.
I notice every single pain (and there are several of them) the entire time I’m out there. And I think, Fuck. Why is this my hobby? This is the stupidest hobby in the world.
But then. Maybe once or twice a week. I sneak out and join some others for a run.
And life gets so much better. And also so much worse. All at once.
Because they don’t have time for my reluctance.
Take that sweatshirt off, Sunshine.
But I’m cold.
You’re getting ready to run. You’re gonna get hot.
But I might not run fast enough to get warm.
Leave it here. Now.
And then. Half a mile in. As we’re starting the climb.
Holy fuck, it’s hot.
And because some of us have a tendency towards slothiness. We decide on one mile strength intervals.
But also, someone is pushing the pace pretty hard right out the gate.
So, by the time we get in our second set of push ups. And hit the top of the hill. Someone sees an opportunity. For a sub-50 finish.
We’ve been here before, folks.
And this is where group runs are important for the reluctant runner.
Because this so and so decided we were gonna maintain a sub-8 minute pace the last 2 1/2 miles.
And that’s fine on the initial downhill. I can let gravity manage that for me.
But that last mile and a half isn’t steep enough for that.
I have to use too much of my own leg power to maintain pace.
And he keeps looking at his watch. Telling me I need to go faster. We’re gonna make it if I just go faster.
And if I could catch up to him. I’d rip that watch off his wrist and throw it into the fucking woods.
And we’re saving the last three sets of push ups for the end.
So I have that to look forward to.
And can I go faster? Because I’m gonna need to go faster to do this.
And he’s wishing there was more conversation happening.
And I can’t fucking breath. Let alone converse.
And he feels like he’s running on a cloud.
And I barely have control over my own body at this point.
And I’m thinking I could just back off pace and run in with the rest of them when they catch up. He could just go on without me.
But he says no. He can’t. Because we’re a team.
And that’s beautiful. But also. Fuck. Just go the fuck on. Let me be reluctant.
But then, finally, I can see our cars. And he finishes. And then he’s standing there yelling at me. To push harder. I’m gonna make it if I just push harder.
And I do.
And then I’m on the ground. By my car. Coughing uncontrollably. On the verge of vomiting.
It’s not COVID. It’s these friends of mine.
And he’s just so happy and proud of himself.
And I still can’t fucking breath.
And he can’t understand why I’m not happier about this accomplishment.
And I just want the coughing to stop.
And eventually it does.
And I do my push ups.
And then wrap myself up in a blanket.
Because now I’m fucking freezing.
And the others come in. Smiling. And laughing. Because they know how to enjoy a run. (And maybe two of them are on bicycles. So they really know how to enjoy a run.)
And we have our post-run refreshments. And vent about the state of the world right now. And revisit questionable COVID cures.
And this is why I need group runs. All of this. All of these people. All of this venting. And laughter.
And also the not so gentle reminder that every now and then. I can push myself. As long as there’s someone there to make me.
That right there is a PR, people.
And while we’re here. Check out PlayFITStayFIT’s virtual 10k. (There’s also a 5k option. But if we’re gonna run, let’s get all the miles in at once. That way maybe we can take the next day off…)
Let’s go ahead and support my favorite gym to complain about. And add another cool quarantine race shirt to our collection. And ensure that I have future material to write about. Because if that gym doesn’t survive this pandemic shut down, I’m gonna have to go find random strangers to yell at me. And confiscate my phone from me. And throw punching bags on me. And really. That can’t be safe.
Y’all want me to be safe, right?