Near my parents' house, there is a wonderful place called Lacamas Lake with a great path running for about 3.5 miles along the side of the lake. During the summer, when we visit, we go running there often. It's wonderful because my husband and I can each run the distance we like (him farther and faster than me), and then he can catch up with me on his way back for a cool down walk together. Sometimes, my parents take our little one, and then we can catch up with her exploring the lake edge and forest.
Running is complicated for me. The exercise is great for my body, and I feel stronger and better once I've been running for awhile. Once I get into a rhythm (both in a specific run and with running regularly), it's not so bad. Especially when I have a lot on my mind, running is a wonderful way to process. I am completely alone in my thoughts. With my body occupied, I don't get the bored and antsy feeling I might get when doing serious thinking while sitting still.
But starting to run is hard. I get nervous and anxious. I have to distract myself; that's why I love this trail, because I can start walking with my husband and chat with him until we get our run on. And, sometimes, in the middle, I feel so alone, like I am the only one in my struggle.
This is where the solidarity comes and why I particularly love this trail over other places I run. When I run back at home, I usually just run on streets around town. There are few if any other runners, mostly due to timing. People run in our town, but not on the streets I do at the times I do. I don't run on the bike/run path, mostly because it's downhill from where I am, and that means I would need to run back up. But at Lacamas Lake, it's a mostly flat trail chock-full of walkers, runners, and bikers; I am both alone in my thoughts and together with other people exercising their body and mind.
Every single time I go running, at least one person gives me great encouragement. Yesterday, it was a woman walking the same direction as me. By the time I caught up to her (after many, many minutes of slowly jogging up to her fast walking pace), I apologized: "I'm on the tortoise plan, but I'm turning around here." And she reminded me that it's wonderful that I'm out exercising and not on the couch. As I turned, she said "rock on, sister!" Late in my run, that gave me the extra little boost to finish strong. The other day, it was an older gentleman who was also running. We'd passed each other going one way, and we had both turned and passed each other again. "Keep it up, kid!" Sometimes, it's the little waves and smiles from fellow runners who understand; we are all out there working to improve ourselves, stride by stride.
Many people think running is lonely. There are lonely miles. But there's also a community out there happy to support. Every time I do a race, I invariably spend time jogging and chatting with someone else. We encourage each other to push -- not too much, but just enough, at our own pace -- and stay strong. So I push ahead with my body, and I do serious thinking with my mind. Perhaps if I run enough, I will finish planning next year's classes in my head.