Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Running Together And Alone

Sunday Morning: I’m kind of a problem.
I arranged to run with a friend this morning. We were out to dinner and set it up. At the end of the evening she mentioned the other runners joining us. She likes to run in a group. I prefer running alone. Driving home, I regretted agreeing to a group run, but I need to be at least a little social and we were set to run St. Mary’s Cemetery, my favorite. I imagined myself on the forested path up the hill there, but I imagined running it alone.
Six in the morning, I’m writing. The forecast is for thunderstorms. My friend texts the group asking to move our run up half an hour. Fine, I respond. Whatever. I’m up and nearly finished writing. Then she texts me alone.
The cemetery run won’t work for the group. One woman has knees that won’t do hills. Another needs a shorter run. The two of us can do the cemetery loop another time, but not this morning.
I want to run the cemetery by myself and imagine ditching the group run. I’ll do a group run some other time, but not this morning. But there’s no good reason to bow out. I’m just not getting what I want, so I’m pissy.
I’m a problem. I can pretty much take or leave running with the others because I prefer to run alone. My friend struggles with that, sometimes feeling I’m avoiding her. It’s more I’m avoiding everyone. Alone, I run inside my solitude, often without a thought for miles. It’s a kind of wilderness. My dream run is alone through the Grand Canyon. My friend would want to share such an experience. I understand, but that’s not me.
It’s almost time to change into running clothes, start my GPS watch, and run to the meeting place, and I’m already regretting a run I haven’t even started. I’m not excited. I’m down. I want to run through the cemetery alone with my breathing. I want to run at my own pace. But there’s no good way out of this while remaining a friend. It will be fine. I probably need this group run just to see that it’s no hardship and I will survive. It will do me good to learn to get along.
There’s tomorrow to run the cemetery and commune in silence with the remains of the dead, the wide open sky, and the forested path leading up the hill into light.
* * *
Sunday afternoon: Overthinking is kind of my problem.
I jogged to the park and waited as each runner arrived. We ran to the house of a couple more runners. Everyone chatted. I nodded, not saying much. No one expected me to hold up much of the conversation. Every so often I said something and at one point my friend and I had a good talk. Nice stuff. But mostly I just ran, a little faster than I prefer, but it it’s good to be pushed.
We covered one, two, three miles through quiet streets. It wasn’t the cemetery, but it was good and though I wasn’t alone, I ran about the same as if I had been, my mind wandering, my feet moving in rhythm, my voice stilled.
At four miles we dropped one runner at her house. At four and a half another turned toward hers. At five, my friend turned off to hers. I ran another quarter mile with the last two. I felt good. Tired but strong.  
Those last two runners said they were headed to St. Mary’s Cemetery. I laughed, then wished them a good run. I had no interest in joining them. I had run far enough. “Maybe we’ll see you next week,” they said as we parted. Maybe, I said and waved.

It was a good run and a change of pace. I’m glad I went and I’ll go again if they’ll have me, but my next run will be up the forested path in St. Mary’s that leads into a soft darkness and stillness that I crave.