Friday, January 30, 2015

A race report and a revelation.

I'll start with the race report, that way, when I get to my rambling emotional stuff, you can bow out. My first race of the year was the St. George Half Marathon. I haven't run this race before, so it was fun to get out and run about the red rocks and palm trees.

I enjoyed this race. The organization was good and we were smart to stay at the hotel that was practically at the start line. Packet pick up was easy and the expo was a decent size. The course was pretty nice. Who am I kidding, I was just happy to get out of the cold, dreary weather of Utah County and down to sunny southern Utah. I especially liked the bike path that we got to run on for the last 5 or so miles. It was nice to get off the road and away from the traffic. I've done some training runs down in St. George while on vacation, but I had never found where to get on that path. Now that I know, I can use it in future training.
Enjoying the bike path.
Flying through the finish.
I went to this race with a great group of runners. The people that I rode down to the race with waited patiently at the finish line for me, the slowest of the Meet Up folks. That was kind of them. I felt very strong through this race, which was a pleasant surprise, since it came just a week after my 33.26 mile effort. I'm feeling quite optimistic about my upcoming ultras with how well things have been going with my training. Which means I better rein in that optimism, because every time I've felt ready, something has gone horribly awry.
So now we're to the part where things get all deep and emotional. You can tune out, I won't even mind. I've been thinking about why I run. It's been on my mind more than ever these last few weeks. It's funny, as I logged on to write this blog, I saw a blog post by my friend Jeremy that went into depth about why he runs. I guess it's that time of year or there's something in the water...

I had a realization about why I spend hours upon hours running. I've realized that I run so long because of my aloneness. Aloneness isn't exactly loneliness, but it's similar. Loneliness, to me, encompasses an element of sadness. I'm not all that sad. Just alone.

I've always had trouble connecting with people. It seems to get worse as I get older. I've always been just a little "off" I suppose. I was never popular, I never dressed right (still don't), I never followed the popular music scene, etc.

Not fitting in used to bother me more, and I tried so hard to fit in. I spent too much time trying to look right, say the right things, pretended to like the things that others liked. I forced myself out of the house for weekends on end, going out with guys I didn't care for because the weekends were for dating and that's what normal people do.

Finally, I found that if I filled my weekends with races, I had an excuse not to go out all the time. I had to go to bed early during the week to get my training in. It gave me an out. People didn't like it, so they left. And I was okay with that. I hit the point where I only want to spend time with the people who truly understand me.

So running all those races is one thing. But why the longer distances? I've figured that out too. How much better is it for me to run when I'm feeling my aloneness than to binge eat, or wind up in some dive bar, sharing a drink we call loneliness (But it's better than drinking alone! Everyone sing along, you know the words). It's a healthy outlet of sorts. I spent over 8 hours last Sunday in the act of running. I found a lot of peace in it. I understand myself, so I don't mind spending all that time alone with my thoughts.

So  running is my aloneness therapy. And then, when it's race time, I get to be a little less alone. I get to be part of a group trying to accomplish the same end. We all have to go the same distance. There's a sense of camaraderie, shared goals, purpose. And for a few hours (more than a few hours, depending on the distance) I belong.

In this life, there's very little we actually have control over. There's a saying out there about running. It's something along the lines of "running is an honest endeavor, you get out of it exactly what you put in", And it's true. I can control my efforts, my dedication, my attitude about it. When I feel like everything is spiraling out of control, as it so often does in life, I can go for a run. When I feel sad, I can go for a run. I can have a good cry when I run and no one knows because I can pass it off as sweat. When I feel happy, I can run and enjoy the feeling of moving my body. And after every run, I'm in a better mental  place than I was before I started.

So that's why I run. You can do with that what you will. Another therapeutic blogging session, courtesy of yours truly. Until next time, run happy. Or sad, or lonely, or alone, or however you need to run.

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