The Couch and the Running Community
I like my couch. It is nothing special, just a good, comfortable, brown couch. I like to stretch out on it with a good book, or to watch my kids play, or just to nap.
Distance running is a unique community. If I line up for a marathon with hundreds of other runners, despite the fact that we are competitors, they all hope I do well and I hope they all get Personal Bests. There is very little attitude; we are all there to push our limits. The clock, more than the person next to me, is my main competitor. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t like being passed, and I will always want to pass the runner in front of me. Runners silently push one another.
Sometimes, in marathons I have run, I started to fade and have been rescued by strangers who slowed down to encourage me, and I have done the same for others. We all know what it is like to struggle. No one except me really cares whether I cross the finish line in three hours or in six hours. But crossing the finish line is important.
Running is one of the purer forms of sport. Unlike many sports, money can only buy you a limited amount of advantage. In biking for instance, a mediocre biker with a great bike can sometimes beat a good biker on a mediocre bike. The best running shoes in the world will not get you off the couch; you have to do that yourself. Most people don’t get into running for fame or money. They get into running to challenge themselves. Runners have that in common.
Even during rainy training days, or when I am just running for pleasure (yes, people do that), I wave to other runners. I feel a connection. We both have a competitive spirit within us. If we didn’t, we’d be home on the couch watching Netflix instead of running though puddles. I feel a bit like I imagine Harley Davidson owners feel when they meet on the open highway. I nod or wave or say Hi because even if we don’t know one another, we are connected. I wave because I am glad to be part of the running community, a community in which it is okay to wave to strangers. That is the kind of community I want to belong to.
I remember the day I stopped feeling like a “person who sometimes runs,” and started feeling like a “runner.” It was a snowy Sunday morning. I was nearing the end of a long, slow run. The sun was up but hadn’t been at the start of my run. I ran by a hot tub full of people on 5th Avenue in Fernie. I overheard one of the people say, “Oh my God. We’re still partying and that guy is RUNNING.” I felt like a hardcore runner. Before that I always felt like “real runners” were people who won races and who didn’t struggle to get off the couch to go running. I have never even come close to winning a race, and I still hate getting off the couch, but I am always glad I did.
And as I mentioned, I like my couch. The thing about reading my book, watching my kids play, napping… they all feel better after I finish a good, long run.