I am a solo runner.
Endless roads of pavement I could be found jogging through. Year after year I would take off from the small town that I had grown up in and just escape for hours on end. The pace wouldn’t be fast, the result wouldn’t be amazing, but at least I was moving.
I never wanted to run with anyone. Growing up in high school, being one of three or four distance runners, had its problems. Namely, having an eventual All-American cross country runner on the roster, along with an All-State football/basketball star, created an environment where I knew that I would be left in the dust. Figuratively and literally. When we practiced by running a 3200m at our school, the future All-American runner would lap me…twice…before the 3200m were finished.
That is the environment I grew up. I loved the sensation of running, but I grew to hate the idea of always being left to fend for myself. I will always appreciate my high school coach, but like many coaches, he focused on the runners that could win. Not necessarily spending the same time to bring up the runners that frequently would lose.
I learned that if I ran by myself, removed from everyone else, I never had to worry about losing. There were no runners that were shirtless, or in sports bras, just traversing the plains making my chunky, elongated frame feel worthless. There wasn’t a coach that would leave practice before I returned back from a “long slow distance” practice. I had music, shoes, and myself.
I am a solo runner.
Eleven years removed from those moments I can’t necessarily believe that, that was my mindset for so long. This weekend I partook in two different races. One was a 5K on Saturday, the other was a 5K on Sunday. Neither, for myself, were to be competitive. They were, in their entirety, community driven events.
North Kansas City Schools 5K
Passions collided Saturday morning. I was wearing my racing singlet from the team I’m on, while also running in an event designed for the continued support of a school district in the city. The same school district that I teach in. While there wasn’t a huge turnout (nasty weather), the reality was being able to complete this course knowing that:
- Race entry fees went to better the district that my students are currently in
- Being able to be a teacher that also supports the district and students outside of school
- The same cross country coach from the neighboring middle school was going to win again this year
Misty, cool, with no wind. A flat course that was perfect for my first time back since a nasty hamstring/calf issue over the past two weeks. The course was beautiful, the kids were excited, and even though I placed fourth in my age group, I felt good. My cardio was strong from the different workouts with my team, and I couldn’t even tell when we were at the two mile mark. Overall, while not my fastest time, I know for a fact that it was a race that I’ll always enjoy.
What I Learned: Relax. Not every race you signed up for is going to be a personal record. Don’t forget that some events you sign up for, you are doing it for that community piece of your running addiction. Not all races are meant to be a competition, some are meant to show others how much you care about them.
Run For Little Hearts 5K:
Sunday morning, being a beautiful, sunny, cool entry into the month of May, started with 1200 other runners in the city center of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I had been invited by some friends to be a part of team “Mighty McKinley” for this 5K. This race, a community driven event, revolves around CHD (Congenital Heart Defect), an anomaly in the structure of the heart found in infants. A good friend of mine, born last year, is a kiddo with CHD.
It is easy to read about races that are designed for community awareness, the ‘feel good’ events, and seeing how race fees are translated into donations for organizations. However, the real emotional stint of community involvement really doesn’t settle in until you see the multitude of strollers that are rolling along the parkway of the route. The amount of people that arrive because they know someone, or they are that someone, truly can show the unique passion that drives communities.
Outside of all these new realities; the race itself was fairly flat, a nice “T-Shaped” out-and-back route with plenty of food and fun at the end.
What I Learned:
There are several moments in ones life where the opportunity to be competitive will exert itself. However, we can only cherish those moments when we find the balance with how much we give back to our communities when they have already given us so much. We are only as a strong as individual runners as we are through the people that support us. Who are we not to return the favor?
Bonus: There comes a point in a runners life where food after a race is a necessity. I never knew until this weekend how good a dozen pancakes could really taste.
The reality of my life is thinking that I once was a solo runner. I tried to be a solo runner for years and disconnect myself from the rest of the world. As time has passed though, I’ve learned that through a team, through a support system, and through a community; I’m only going to become stronger and faster if I allow myself to rely on others from time-to-time.