Running is an individual sport – but it isn’t a solo sport. As often as we run alone, we are always a community – on trails, pavements, track, suburbia and wild places.
Community in an individual sport means that we have particular responsibility and massive opportunity.
Opportunity: My first marathon I ran with Dave – an extrovert with a story. He talked, I listened. I learned. If I’d had the energy, I might have wept. After all my 2 years solo training, it took that event to realise that truth about connectedness and community.
Recently I ran with Stan – an introvert with an addiction. As an introvert, a bloke and sometimes a bit slow to respond verbally, running is great for conversation for me. I don’t need to look anyone in the eye – and they don’t need to see me struggling to think. And silence isn’t awkward … it’s just running.
So running is an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t normally – addicts, astrophysicists, professors and hairdressers – and to value new stories that we get to join to our stories. One of the best questions to ask the person running along side you is, “So what got you into this running thing?”
Our responsibility is in both care and respect. Mid race it’s ok to ask a stranger how they are doing. Genuinely. A conversation about cramping can chew up some miles; and it can also help ambulance or medical staff if you are present if your companion collapses. When you grab water at the aid station, grab 2 cups and pass one on to someone else.
Respect is learned along the way: respect others’ journeys; respect the volunteers; respect the distance; respect the race director. Say thanks to those handing out water at aid stations; on Facebook after the race say thanks to the race director (who carries legal liability for you and thousands of others!); Cheer on the faster runners as they run past you!
That’s what I mean by community. No one else can run for us – but we never run alone. Those who try, only miss out on one of the sweetest parts of our sport – and don’t last very long.
Running tip #14: Find your place in the crowd – there is room for everyone.