Friday, January 15, 2016

Running Partners: Real and Imaginary

To run alone or to run with someone.  That is a normal question for anyone looking to hit the pavement, sidewalks, and trails.  Personally, I enjoy running both ways—alone and with someone or a group of people.  I know some people that almost can’t get out to run unless someone is going with them.  I know others that have no desire for a running partner. 

There are obvious benefits to both.  Running with someone else can provide motivation to get out the door, to run further, and/or to run faster.  It can provide excellent conversation while you run, an opportunity to take your mind off of the physical discomfort that can accompany a run.  It can also give you a ready ear to hear your complaints about the physical discomfort that can accompany a run.

Running by myself gives me the opportunity to spend time alone, important time in my head.  It’s a great way to meditate and to push myself at my own pace without the stress of worrying whether or I’m slowing someone down or being slowed down by someone.  

On occasion, I run alone when I would prefer to be running with someone and sometimes I run with someone when I would prefer to be running alone.

Today I was running alone.  As I started, I was satisfied with the arrangement.  It was an opportunity for me to open up on my pace and push myself faster than I’ve been going.  The run, as I expected, started out a little rough until my muscles loosened up sufficiently.  At about the two mile mark I was feeling pretty good, so as I often do I increased my distance goal in order to take advantage of the endorphins. 

A mile or so later, and after a long hill, I was feeling a bit of tightness and a growing desire to slow down, perhaps even walk.  It was then that I pulled out one of my trusted mind tricks I use when running alone.  I don’t know if I’ve ever described this method to anyone, but here goes.  I pretend that I’m running with someone.  Depending on the run, my condition, and my need I’ll carefully select a running companion.  Often, if I’m bored or need to talk through things, I’ll have pretend conversations with my dad or my wife.  When I’m running alone in a beautiful place, I’ll pretend my wife is running with me enjoying the scenery.

When I feel like slowing down or walking more than I should; when I want to run faster and further I pick between two imaginary running companions.  Sam and Brett.  When I want someone to persuade me gently and kindly, I pretend I’m running with Sam.  He ran with on several long runs through winter in Colorado Springs as I prepared for my first marathon.  When I need the harsh tough voice of a coach, I run, in my mind, with Brett.  Brett trained with me regularly for my second marathon.  We pushed ourselves hard, increasing our speed.  On our imaginary runs, Brett will prod me, laugh at my desire to be soft, even call me names to keep me running. 

Today I ran with Brett.  He wasn’t kind, but he was motivating. 

As a side note, or perhaps it’s an end note, there is one running companion that will join me, in my mind, without invitation.  It’s Brett’s dog Ryker.  Ryker went on a few runs with us while we were training.  One a particularly long run, our return put the brisk, cold wind in our faces.  Ryker decided to lean against my right leg for four or five of the return miles.  He maintained a constant pressure against me.  By the time we arrived at the car my right knee was aching mightily.  Whenever I get a sore knee or leg on a run when I’m by myself, it seems that Ryker joins me.

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