Fortress of Solitude

AJW reflects on the time he spends running by himself.

By on November 2, 2012 | 27 comments

AJWs TaproomLike most people in education my work life is dominated by personal interactions and face-to-face contacts. It has always been my contention that the best education is, at its core, relational and as such my school life centers around building and maintaining relationships as well as instilling those relational values in others.

In this context, it is on my daily run that I escape those relationships and revel in my own Fortress of Solitude. Certainly, I am by nature an extrovert but, as is often the case with outgoing types, I have an internal introverted side that has evolved with age. In fact, in a recent re-take of the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator, I came quite close to flipping from an “E”, which I’ve been my entire adult life, to an “I”. Has running made me more introverted or has my desire for more solitude made me run more?

Typically, I am the first one awake in my house. As I go through my pre-run routine I savor the quiet of the pre-dawn hours and linger over my coffee. As I step off my doorstep and begin to run the old diesel engine in my chest begins to slowly crank up and my mind begins to wander. After about 10 minutes I find myself breathing to the beat of every footfall, I am aware of the noises in the forest around me but only peripherally. Mostly, I am absorbed in the inner life of my run. Like most of us, I am often asked, “what do you think about for all that time you are running.” And, I am not being sarcastic when I answer, simply, “Nothing.”

You see, on those early morning solitary jaunts I am not really alone. Typically, bopping along the trail chasing the beam of my headlamp, I am accompanied by myriad thoughts and ideas, joys and concerns, passions and people. Some days my mind jumps around like a rabbit, while other times it settles calmly into a tortoise-like trance. My life is full, my focus is deep, and my racing mind settles into silence. In my Fortress of Solitude I find answers to questions I didn’t know how to ask and solutions to problems I didn’t know existed.

Then, running into the rising sun and returning to my doorstep an hour or so later, I am ready and willing to deal with the rest of my life and all its relationships, with the peace of mind that regularly accompanies the solitary runner I am more than content to be.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Heavy Sea Great'er Pumpkin AleThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Baltimore, Maryland’s Heavy Seas Brewing Company. Their Great’ER Pumpkin Imperial Ale is aged three weeks in Bourbon barrels and served in bottles or on tap. I’ve had it on tap and I must say the 9% ABV really sneaks up on you. In fact, with a little whipped cream, this would taste more like pie than beer.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Do you enjoy stepping out of your daily life to spend time running by yourself?
  • What do you think about when you run?
  • … and just for fun, what’s your Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator? (Online test)
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.