Thursday, October 10, 2013

Runner's Log #3 - The Running Club

I am an introvert.  I almost never run with other people.  I’ve tried to run with music, but after a while it’s just so much noise in my head.  So it’s just me, and the road, and what I’m thinking, and what I’m seeing.  No phone, no TV, no chatter.  It’s introvert heaven.

It’s not that I don’t like people; I do, especially one-on-one conversations about something meaningful.  But as is the case with our kind, being in larger groups of people drain me.  Parties exhaust me.  Chit chat at coffee hour after church or banter in the faculty lounge is always a net loss in terms of energy outlay.  It’s just the way we introverts are.  We are energized being alone or with someone else.  But it takes more effort to be with groups.  Again, we can do it, we can be ‘learned extroverts’, but rather than energize us (as this sort of interaction does with extroverts), we usually need some recovery time afterwards!

That being said, I’ve joined a running club at our local YMCA where I work part-time.  Actually, I should say that I indicated a desire to join some weeks ago when it the organizers decided there was enough of a core of people training for a local half-marathon to support a once-a-week running group.  However, my work schedule kept me from joining them.  Until yesterday.

So I showed up never having been part of a running club before.  And I made several discoveries almost immediately.  First, I was the only guy.  I guess it makes sense that 9 AM on Wednesday would find most other men working.  Secondly, none of my other YMCA colleagues, including the organizer, were able to show up.  So that left me and four other women.  And never mind that I had never run with this or any other group before and some of them had been a part of the club from the beginning, I was made the leader.  And thirdly, I rather quickly discovered that I was the only introvert.  I’ve learned to cope with such disparities during the course of my lengthening life, but I’ve also lived long enough to note that there are certain contexts where my brain simply does not function so well when what I am doing – take driving, for example – is combined with sociable chatter.  Running fits nicely into that category.

 First we had to discuss our route.  I learned that my colleagues were amazed that I ran where I did (on roads all over our area) because they felt it was too dangerous (cars driving too fast, etc.).  They would rather stick to a subdivision that had some trails and could handle aspirations for a 2-3 mile run.  I thought, but did not say, that just running repeated circuits around a subdivision for longer mileage would be (for me) terribly boring.  Fortunately for me, three of my colleagues only wanted to go three miles, so it was easy to go the route they felt comfortable with first and then go on for the 7 mile run the rest of us wanted to do.  So we set off. 

It was amazing.  We jogged.  And we talked.  And jogged.  And talked.  And one by one the three peeled off and headed back to the Y.  My remaining partner and I then took a country road past vineyards, mountain views, fall foliage and even a llama herd.  And we talked, and talked, and talked.  I enjoyed it. And by the time we made our way back to the Y, I was dazed. Not from the run.  It’s just I spent 70 minutes in non-stop conversation with a group of strangers.  They were all nice people and the conversation was all typical suburban fare and I enjoyed getting to know them.  But it wore me out.

My training up till now has been entirely me on the road or me in the gym.  But I think this runners club might be a good thing for me.  Running with others, interacting with others helps put me in context.  And it also helps me not to take me so seriously.  Plus it’s good to find some others who understand what training for a half marathon or a full one is like.  And it’s good for me to see that someone else has tried what I am doing now and survived!  Not to mention that I have an increased appreciation of all the effort everybody else is putting into just getting to the starting line on race day.

It was a positive experience, this running club.  I’m glad I did it.  And I'll try to make it next week.  But I am an introvert.  And so I went home and took a nap.

That's me in action, there, on the right.

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