Alone Together

AJW looks at his use and enjoyment of both solo and group running.

By on February 23, 2012 | 14 comments

AJWs TaproomOne of the great paradoxes of long distance running comes from the context in which we run. Generally, running is a solitary activity that allows us to look inward and find a sense of ourselves, our bodies, our hearts, and our minds in the midst of that solitude. However, running is also something that binds us to a strong community and creates connections and relationships that can be some of the most meaningful in our lives. It is quite interesting to me to observe that in the midst of such a profoundly solitary pursuit truly life changing bonds are made.

I am sure all of us have, at one time or another, found solace in a long solo run. I know for me that when I am struggling with a problem or an issue in my life getting out on my own for a long, hard effort is essential to sorting things out and finding answers to questions I was unwilling or afraid to ask. Running lays me bare and breaks things down simply and starkly. If it was not something I could do alone, it may not be as poignant or as effective.

Additionally, I know that there are many among us who have rolled over in bed to hit the snooze button one more time at 5:40 a.m. only to realize that our regular Tuesday running partners will be waiting at the trailhead in 20 minutes. The mere presence of those partners, the health of those relationships, are grounded in the shared suffering of that Tuesday morning tempo run or that Thursday track workout or that weekend long run. I have heard stories, in fact, of countless people who have shared the trail or the road with the same group of people on the same day of the week for years and years.

In the context of this great paradox, it is also clear to me that both the community and the solitude provide purpose and meaning to the seemingly mundane endeavor of running. In essence, the meaning and purpose derived from what we do drives us, motivates us, and completes us.

If you’re like me you are all too often asked, why do you run? For me, the answers invariably run the spectrum from the glib (because I can) to the practical (because it makes me skinny) to the profound (because it gets me in touch with the essence of my inner soul). But, in the end, I always come back to an answer that is unique to the particular circumstance of each experience. It is this uniqueness, this freshness and clarity, that adds weight to each run. And, since each running experience is, in the Big Picture, communal and isolated, then each time we get out there it truly could, and perhaps even should, guide us in the rest of our lives.

Bottoms Up!

Ps. You can now request a free AJW’s Taproom bumper sticker (4″ x 4″).

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Founders Double Trouble IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their Double Trouble Imperial IPA is a smooth drinking beer that defies its 9.4% ABV. In addition, while hopheads will certainly gravitate toward this selection, it’s really an everyman’s beer that is good alone or with a group. :)

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • How do solo and shared runs each fit into your running world?
  • Does either aspect dominate the mental side of your running existence?
  • Does that mirror your introvert/extrovert breakdown in other situations? If not, why do you think that’s the case?

[Editor’s Note: AJW was kind enough to let us move his weekly Taproom article up a day as we complete a massive non-iRunFar project. AJW’s Taproom will move back to Friday next week.]

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.