Let's Talk Running

Let's Talk Running

Running is not a solo sport


There’s an inherent selfishness in ambition. You have to favor it above many things for it to become fruitful. Even when you’ve laid the path and walk the steps to get there, you often walk alone. In many ways, it has to be like that. In this meritocracy we’ve created, individualism and determination are the king and queen of culture. However, if we can see a little beyond those ideas to the vista where we recognize value in strength of community, I believe we can all achieve our goals faster and with greater joy. 


There was a 1/2 marathon I wanted to run, but due to a dance performance later in the day, I couldn’t formally race. My options were A) cheer, or B) pace another runner to help them get the goal they wanted. I chose option B. What does it mean to pace someone? I had no idea, but this is what I learned; you run with them for part of their race at a pace that’s comfortable for you, but challenging for them, you act as support for time keeping, pace keeping, company, and decision making. For runners with time goals, they are physically pushing to the max and sometimes all the other aspects of the race (water, looking at the clock, making choices) are impossible. Enter the pacer…me! 


I met my runner when she had 3-ish miles to go. She looked good, but said she was getting tired. I offered some jelly beans I had in my pocket (I love eating them on longer runs as a little taste-break). She agreed to the pocket beans, then asked for water. I grabbed the cup and gave it to her. I also grabbed a handful of peeled oranges, which wasn’t the wisest choice since I had nowhere to put them…they became pocket orange slices. 2 miles to go, and I asked if she thought she could pick it up towards the end. She said yes and I told her to focus on staying with me and that’s it. We slowly started increasing speed and by the last 0.2 miles were sprinting. I ran behind her, screaming at the top of my lungs to keep pushing, she had it in her. I was right on her heels. 


She crossed the finish line with a time of 1:59:22 - she wanted under 2 hours. She said she couldn’t have done it without me. She’s right and she’s wrong. She did it, she ran that fast - all on her own.  But she had a coach, she had a cheer team, and she had a pacer. I think all I gave her was the push of 38 seconds…really nothing when you really think about it. And also everything. There’s a magic that happens when you know someone believes in you. I knew she could do it, and was going to remind her 1000x over. 


Culturally, we’re quick to discount the value in creating and maintaining community and that we’re stronger as a team. I was so deeply focused on her, I felt zero physical effort on my part even though I was running hard. I didn’t even realize how much I pushed my own self until after. But, watching her face when she saw her time is something that’s seared into my brain and something I will call on when things get tough at my own next race. And I know I’ll be able to push harder than I think I can, because this time, she’ll be cheering for me and telling me I can do it. 

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