“I actually like running alone.” She told us.
We’d just stepped out onto the wide asphalt trail that skirted along the avenue that transects our neighbourhood. It is an oft-noisy, exhaust-drenched route that forms the south ridge of our ringing-standard, and the loop that represents the frequently-reviled, fall-back route for nothing good but feeling as though you’ve actually accomplished something on an evening run sans-planning. The trail was dusty and speckled with the gritty winter remains of a municipal sanding effort in the embodiment of a gruel of thin and scattered pea-gravel.
There were six of us. “What are you saying?” I joked. “You don’t like running with us?”
She’d recently increased her solo distances, by necessity if not design. Training for a marathon leaves you yearning to cover lengths of time and space that at former points in your life would have seemed reserved for driving, or at the very least a sturdy bike ride.
A look. “That’s not what I said.” She corrected. “I mean, I don’t really mind running alone.”
Distances of that required for marathon training are rarely casual. Planning is required, and the chance that someone, anyone, will casually agree to follow you on a run, at your pace, decreases at a rate that is logarithmically declined against hope with each additional kilometer. She had reached edge of the Valley of Solo-ness many kilometers long past, and was now exploring its darker, lonelier corners.
I had toured there myself once before. It is a foreboding place full of doubt and unnerving voices.
“I mean, running alone is good sometimes. I put on my music and just… go.” She continued.
It is. I know that. I just don’t know why.
Pondering This Thing Called Running
As this long dark winter lifts her icy grip, I find that I have had (perhaps too much) time to reflect on this sport of mine. In the last year I have run two marathons, travelled across the continent twice –once for real to run an epic race, and once as a metaphor to make real my training– and spread myself thinly upon a multitude of sun-soaked, icy-slaked, muddy, mountain, tree-rooted paths, all in an effort to… I don’t know what.
Just run? Is that all? It can’t be. I don’t think it can be the whole answer.
I am pondering this thing that I do, and some that –perhaps soon, perhaps never– may emerge as words on these pages.