Monday, March 1, 2010
Since I started running, I have loved the fact that it is "me time." I put on my headphones, I lace up my sneakers, and it's just me, the road, and my thoughts. I have choreographed elaborate dance routines, written lesson plans, rehearsed conversations, come to conclusions, outrun a bad mood or a slight cold. I have achieved goals that only I knew about and set knew ones.
But, since the world is so plugged in and connected these days (indeed, it seems lately that mine is about an 8'x8' box and every one I know fits inside it and knows every one else), I started getting involved with runners on the interwebs. First, at Livejournal, then on Facebook and Twitter. I've met runners and gone on practice runs for upcoming races we were both doing, raced and then met up for hot toddies on a particularly cold and rainy day, done long runs downtown with new friends for breakfast, or met up after a race for brunch. And when we're together, it seems we don't really talk about running. Sure, it comes up. And there are things you can only talk about with other runners (detailed conversations about blisters and vomiting at mile 10 of a race, for instance). But we talk about movies and books and just silly details about our lives.
This past Sunday, I left the apartment at 6:45 to go to Prospect Park in Brookyn for a 4 mile race. This was a bit scary, as this would be my first time running outside in 2 weeks, since coming down with severe bronchitis and managing only a few death-rattly sounding runs on a treadmill since then. But, as I sat on the train, with my race bib affixed to my pants leg I smiled at other runners as they got on at each stop. We all had the same goal today. Our best.
When the train chugged along in Brooklyn, an older man sat next to me. He said something to me in a thick accent and I had to ask him to repeat himself.
"Ees dees you firs race?" He asked.
"Oh. Oh no, " I replied and told him I'd been running seriously for a few years now.
He asked if I'd ever done a marathon and I told him proudly that this year would be my first one.
Then he told me about the four marathons he's run, including Boston. I was tempted to ask his time, but just told him that that was fantastic instead (really, it is, whatever your time). He hadn't run much the last few years, he said. But he missed it. I told him I'd run a great race for him today, and he smiled as I got off the train and wished me luck.
I didn't run my best ever, but I did the best I could that day, and I did my best for the man on the train. 4 miles in 35:27. Not bad considering the recent illness and the cold.
If I hadn't been wearing my race bib that man and I might have had nothing to talk about. And if I hadn't decided to start running one day, I wouldn't have left the park and made my way to brunch with over a dozen new friends.
I still love my me time.
But I'm always grateful for new friends.