Or so I thought.
That is…until I got deeper into the running community. And I realized…I’m a bit of an anomaly in this particular fellowship. Maybe I’m not so average.
Maybe I am actually a black sheep. A unicorn. I’m feeling more and more like a star trying to fit into a round hole (as my roommate so blatantly put it awhile back when I took a moment to whine about this very subject).
I am a runner…that didn’t run as a child. No cross country or track in high school. Basically my running in my non-adult years was the bases of a softball field. IF I was fortunate enough to hit the ball. I wasn’t much good at hitting. I was a damn good catcher though. Maybe squatting was more my thing.
I’m digressing. Back on track…
I am a runner…that will never have some inspirational Transformation Tuesday photos. If anything, my pictures tell a very different story. I started running just after being diagnosed with Celiac. My body was depleted of essential nutrients that it stopped absorbing. My pictures show someone going from being tiny and maybe fitting that “fit” standard all social media aspires to…to someone with a little bit of meat on her bones and muscle tone that isn’t as defined because my body is healthy. Maybe the scale tells me things I don’t like…but I feel strong and I feel healthy…and that beats a number on the scale anytime.
I am a runner…that didn’t start running to lose weight, maintain a certain lower weight, or to make my body smaller. In fact…the more years I’ve run, the more I’ve weighed. I keep hoping it’s muscle and not the desserts I love so much. HA. (It’s okay, though, if it actually is the desserts because we all need to live a little!)
I am a runner…who didn’t take up running in place of other habits such as smoking or drinking. I never took up this sport to replace some demon I was battling or some habit I was dispensing of at the time. It was never my rehab.
Nope. Much like Forrest Gump…one day, I just felt like running.
But what I have discovered is that this isn’t your typical running story…and in a sense, it has left me feeling like quite the outsider in a truly diverse community. And it’s perplexing how I can be surrounded by great people…and yet still find myself running alone more times than not. How is it that in a community that has every shape and size of person…I just don’t fit?
I think social media recently illuminated this light bulb and got me thinking on this particular subject. Good or bad…the gears started turning in my head.
Awhile back…when lots of Transformation Tuesday posts were still fresh in my head…my local MRTT/SRTT social media post showed a pic of two of the chapter leaders and invited everyone to tag their BRFs (Best Running Friends). And this is where it all clicked with me. I have this great community all around me…and yet…I do 90% of my runs alone.
And this wasn’t always the case. When I first started running, and after a big bridge repair happened and made going over to Louisville a lot easier, I started running Monday nights from a new running store in the Highlands of Louisville. It was the Monday Fun Run and I showed up, the girl from Indiana, who didn’t know anyone there…and afraid I’d be running alone and get lost…had people to run with for the first time. My first run, I met Courtney, who was kind enough to run with me and guide me around the Loop at Cherokee Park, because I was certain I’d get lost as I didn’t run in Louisville unless it was a race…and that’s marked out…and…and…she was awesome. And she put up with my RunKeeper clicking off my pace and miles from my pocket…because I didn’t own a Garmin yet. Courtney and I are still friends…and this store brought so many more people into my life. Especially when I started training for marathons in 2013. That Monday group invited me to come and join them on their weekly long runs as I dove into marathon training for the first time. A large group of people met up at the running store (the store is gone now) every Saturday morning for long runs. All paces. All levels. Everyone welcome. As someone who met this group by taking a chance, I decided it would be a much more fun way to train. I love running with people. And from there…I gained a lot of friendships and running buddies. I ran fast…I ran slow…but I always had someone to guide me through the process and take me the next mile week after week after week.
And keep me from getting lost in Louisville. (I actually do get lost…a lot).
But…these days I feel like I’ve lost all of that. Many members of that group no longer run together. Some have health issues that prevent them from participating in the sport anymore or for right now. Some have just taken to training solo. Some have outgrown the group because they’ve gotten superhuman speed or are doing triathlons so their focus has to be on other aspects. Some are battling injuries. Some are taking time away…for no other reason except that they want to explore other hobbies that they enjoy and need time to do.
And all of that is fair. And fine. We all have our own goals and aspirations and restrictions and limitations.
I am always game to run with people, but as someone who is known as one of the “fast” runners (I’m really not…but thank you!), I feel like everyone feels intimidated and doesn’t want to slow me down.
Insert my coach saying, “PLEASE…SLOW HER DOWN!”
The great thing about running is that it can be an individual sport, but it can also be a team sport or a sport that you can buddy up or form groups and make the miles tick away as you please. Where I see so many groups out there running together, I feel like my training and my so called “speed” have left me more isolated than ever before. And it sucks. It sucks, because I am such a social person, and I love the social aspect of training with people and running with people, because that can be far more entertaining than waiting on the next beep from the Garmin watch, or simply getting lost in the sound of my footfalls on another empty road or my breathing as I run, perhaps, a little harder than I need to be for a training run…because my mind is now focused on nothing more than finishing another solo run. It’s definitely more rewarding.
I probably sound like I’m whining…
I guess…being someone without a past in running, or someone who has dropped weight, or someone who has overcome addiction…I guess it just makes me a bit more of an outsider. And, yeah, sometimes I’m jealous. People with stories are the people who inspire others. No one gets inspired by the girl who just one day decided to run instead of walk…and has had to battle back after some pretty bad (and always poorly timed) injuries…time and time again…because people usually give you the, “Oh…I’m sorry you got injured…again.” look or tone or whatever. I don’t like being the person who gets told, “you’re so injury prone,” or that “You shouldn’t do that because it will make you get injured again. You’re always getting injured.” There was a time where that didn’t matter…but now it’s so ingrained in my head that I feel like pushing the limits in running will just lead to injury. Funny how people can change your way of thinking…and make you feel like less of a person, even if that isn’t their intention.
Yep…I have been injured. What runner hasn’t? But, it seems that in the time I have had to take off from running was when my community crumbled and scattered and all that’s left are a few bits of the foundation…and, God, am I ever thankful for them. Because, I’ve not had an easy time of it, regardless of what people think. When you’re told by both your orthopedic doctor and your physical therapist that your body just isn’t built for running…but this is the one sport that you’ve actually been able to show up for, enjoy, and, sometimes, even be good at…well, stopping is not an option.
Not yet, anyway!
Through all of this…the very struggles that make elite runners feel human…is where I have felt the most lonely. My comebacks have been slow, steady, and silent. My setbacks have been disappointing to myself and to those I felt were counting on me to show up every weekend and run some miles with them. It’s all a very internalized struggle that just recently showed me how very different I am from most people I know who are runners.
But I’m not an outsider. I’m one of them. I just came to it differently. I fight for it differently. I do it for different reasons. And sometimes…when I’m digging into another mile on a long training run, I need to remember MY WHY.
It’s not always easy being an average girl, with an average build, who runs a rather average speed, an average amount of times a week, who has been pretty basic her entire life…with an average story…feeling anything but average in this life these days.
I’m okay with being average. Just…tell me there are more out there like me. Because I’m looking for you!