I don’t want to sound critical of the whole social running scene. Call me old school, but for me running has always been, first and foremost, a solitary activity. Yes, I loved my cross country running experience back in high school. Yes, I love that my husband has become a solid running partner with whom I run about 99% of my workouts with. But before and after XC, before I met my husband, before I had anyone to run with, I still ran. Why? Because I fucking love running.
Even as I run beside my husband, we spend very little time talking (we do talk more now that I’m HR training and have slowed way, way down). Mostly we are in our own heads, our own thoughts, processing whatever comes across our minds. It’s not necessarily meditative (although it can be with some focused intent). It’s just time to think. Or listen. Be quiet. Be in tune with our minds, our bodies. So for me, the pressure of socializing with a group of people during a run would sap all of my energy and leave me with nothing for the run itself. It’s just who I am.
The problem I’m seeing, and maybe it is just my problem, is that social running seems to be offering itself up as a solution to helping people who dislike running in the first place. And I know people come to the sport for many reasons: to lose weight, to collect fancy bling at the end of a race. So what I’m feeling is this: if you don’t like to run, for fuck’s sake, stop running. Go find an activity that you enjoy. If you enjoy group activities, join a boot camp, or cross fit, or a spin class. If the only reason you are running is to socialize with other people, there are such easier ways to do that, that might actually appeal to you.
Is that harsh? Why? I feel terrible seeing people suffering through injuries, illness, discomfort, physical therapy, surgeries, etc., in order to participate in a sport they don’t actually enjoy, just so they can be part of a group, or earn a medal, or lose some weight.
Now let me clarify one point: I don’t enjoy the feeling of being overheated. I don’t enjoy when my legs are sore, or my feet trip on a rock and I scrape the shit out of my knees and elbows. I don’t enjoy getting up early when I haven’t slept the night before. BUT here’s the thing: the act of running, the act of bounding from one foot to the other, for any length of time – I LOVE that. That love overrules any discomfort, or fatigue, or inconvenience that I might experience. You know what else? If I take more than a week off from running, I get runner’s itch. It’s horrible. By the end of that first run after a break my thighs are covered in bright red streaks from where I’ve attempted to scratch off the outer layer of my skin. I hate it. I hate it. BUT – I love running. So I’ll endure it. It goes away after a few days of running.
So this is my roundabout way of saying, if social running groups do not appeal to you, that’s perfectly OK. You don’t have to #RunWithTheCoolKids (a hash tag that evokes a wave of bad high school memories but that’s another story for another day) to be a runner.