The Solitary Runner

I have always run solitary. When I began running in the seventies running solitary was a given due in part to the small number of individuals who did run. I do apologize…if you ran in the seventies; you were called a “jogger.” If you ran you were an elite marathoner or a track superstar. I was neither. I ran for the same reasons I still run; to clear my head. I run for the health benefits as well but I have found nothing better to clear the cobwebs from an insane day but a good run.

I have run a large number of races over the years, most of them 5K’s. I even ran these in a solitary fashion, or at least as solitary as one can get when one runs with several hundred other individuals. I arrive to most races within a half hour of the start time. I get my stretching and warm-up run in and head over to the start line. I have no desire and no need to engage in the nervous small talk of other runners. I do flash the occasional smile at the runner who insists this is a part of their pre-race strategy and I will respond to questions posed to me both at the start line and out on the road but none other. It sounds arrogant, about this I care very little. I know I am not that person. I enjoy my solitude.

George Sheehan discussed the importance of solitude during his runs when he said, “And there I found contemplation. I discovered how easy it was to escape from the body into a total encounter with my thoughts…thoughts I had never or rarely been conscious of before. Those training runs became my hour for exploring the meaning of my past, the treasures laid up in my subconscious mind. Being a runner comes naturally to me. I am by nature a loner. Like Henry David Thoreau, I am never less lonely then when alone.”

That hour is my time. It belongs to no one else. No one can steal it from me and I refuse to give away this hour to anyone. Anthony Storr who wrote, Solitude: A Return to the Self suggested a degree of “solitude is important for pursuits that call for original thought and sustained use of imagination.”

My presence has often been requested to run with a small group of runners in a local running group. I reject these requests with little thought. I have rejected these requests on so many occasions my presence is no longer requested. Sadness for the lack of invitation does not cross my emotional threshold. This is who I am. For this I make no excuses.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I need to go for a run to clear my head and do some thinking.


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