The Camaraderie of the Long Distance Runner

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Training

This morning’s run marked the last significant workout in my three-month buildup to the Boston Marathon. It was the type of cold and damp Saturday morning that when the alarm goes off at 0600 you can easily come up with 100 different excuses to stay in your warm, cozy bed. This morning, however, I only needed one reason to get up and into my running shoes: my teammates, with whom I have run almost every workout during this buildup.

While I usually write about the prevention and treatment of common running physical injuries, this month I wanted to expand The Body Shop to explore the mental benefits of group training. I hope you not only find it beneficial but also relatable.

Having never run on a track or cross-country team in high school or college, running had always been a solo exploration for me. Despite always enjoying running it was primarily used as a means of getting in shape for the “real team sports” of soccer and lacrosse that I played throughout my high school and college careers. After my college lacrosse days had ended, I found myself part of a few different running clubs as my passion for marathoning grew. However, despite my membership, I still clung onto the notion that running was a solo endeavor and that the only motivator I needed was my own desire to succeed.

Thankfully, that perception has changed since moving back to Boston from Portland, Oregon and rejoining the BAA. Over the last two years, I have seen firsthand how much group training can improve not only the individual but also the group as a whole. While we have all experienced the advantage of having friendly competition, running with a team offers more than just that. There is a certain understanding that running teammates have with each other that is hard to describe but impossible to ignore and invaluable to the individual runner. While challenging to put into words, this morning’s workout is a prime example of this shared understanding…

It’s now 7:55 a.m. and we meet at a familiar spot, the corner of Mass Ave and Memorial, for the prescribed 12 miles at our hopeful marathon pace. As we greet each other with gloved fist -pumps and anxious looks on our faces, there is no explanation needed as to how we are all feeling. We have all worked so hard together and overcome multiple obstacles and injuries to get to this point in our training. We are exhausted but energized and comforted with the knowledge that there is strength in numbers. Without having to explain it to each other, we all know what we need mentally right now. With two weeks to go, we all desperately seek that last confidence boost that will reassure us that all the early morning runs in the arctic cold, the lung searing intervals endured on the track, and the leg numbing long runs in the hills have yielded the necessary physical adaptations to allow us to run faster than we ever have over the unforgiving Boston course. Simply put, we all want and need for this run to feel “easy,” yet we all have our doubts and concerns and know that if we had attempted to do this workout by ourselves it would have felt anything but. Like a true team, we have become one unit that has learned to feed off each other’s energy and drive. We are there to support each other when someone needs to tuck-in when things aren’t feeling good, and we are there to push each other when new levels need to be reached.

A little over an hour later, the workout is over and the fistpumps and anxious glances have been exchanged for smiles and even an unexpected big group hug. Yup, that’s right, six sweaty, tired, thirty something guys clad in short shorts and half tights, sporting various combinations of blue and yellow, and wearing smelly adidas shoes just had a group hug on the banks of the Charles River. While most people walking by were probably wondering what the heck was going on, I have a feeling anyone who has ever been part of any type running team whether collegiate, professional, charity, or recreational, understood exactly.

Ian Nurse came scintillatingly close to a new marathon PR at Boston, missing it by a mere two seconds. This article originally appeared in the May/Jun 2014 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Since it’s all free, the little things like getting on our subscriber list go a long way in helping us grow!

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