The coldest and snowiest of nights, the earliest of mornings, the bleakest of trails, there are a few who will be standing there ready to face the challenge.people (noun)
feets with friends.
8 months ago
My running group is a key aspect of my social life.
Various medias have converged on a topic lately, or at least I've found myself listening to multiple podcasts and broadcast radio programs that have an overlapping subject: adult friendship. Some study (to which I'm remiss to look for and/or link to now) was (apparently) recently published that reflected on the nature of friendship in adulthood … and what it found was not positive.
Simply: we have fewer close friends as we age and it's harder to find and make friends as we get deeper into our lives.
It's probably a pretty obvious fact to many people, but the older we get the more we tend to retreat into the busyness of our lives and the more we tend to close that new friend gap with things and existing relationships than on experiences and building new relationships. And guys are worse than woman with respect to nurturing new friends.
In general, of course. As with any broad statement, there are outliers and folks to balk at supposed norms.
I consider myself a bit of an outlier. I think I have more good friends now that I'm in my 40s than I had good friends in my 30s. And while my teens and 20s were rife with loose friendships, I'd be hard pressed to name more than five people I was "close" to outside of my family and romantic life. Yet, a lot of those friends come from running, or my "sport club" which was one of the key pieces of advice from those aforementioned podcasts and broadcast radio programs on finding new friends as an adult.
So, I'm following all the great advice and building a social circle and ...
WHOMP! I get myself a knee injury.
My friends keep running, and I stay at home to rest or go swim laps at the pool or do physio stretches in my basement.
Suddenly there's a haemorrhaging wound in my social circle friend group.
I mean, sure, we occasionally meet outside running for beers or dinners but to go from thrice weekly runs to a smattering of text messages is a deeply depressing accompaniment to the other more literally painful aspects of a knee injury. It's easy to want to rush important recovery things or push back into the game early just to plug that bleeding mental wound in your life.
Ultimately, I'll wait. Ultimately, I'll do what's best for my body while my soul suffers a bit more. But it's interesting to reflect on how sitting on the sidelines can impact us more than just our waning physical fitness. It can really crush your heart, too.
9 months ago
I'm not naïve.
I get that some people put in more effort. Some people push themselves harder. Some people achieve at a higher level than others.
And there is a local clique of runners who seem to thrive on the mindset that this sets them apart.
I wrote earlier today about the motivating effects of spectating an ultramarathon this past weekend, watching everyone push through their barriers to meet their goals.
Yet sitting around I saw a different type of barrier, not one created by physical endurance or mountain trails or midnight thunderstorms. It was a barrier created by ego and attitude.
People who do something well and then feel they can put a metaphorical gate around a perceived walled garden of their own personal achievement. In doing so they project the vibe that anyone who achieves lesser than them does not belong through the gate and into the garden. THEY are welcome because their own standards for their own personal definition have been met despite being far from the top of the sport, but anyone lesser, anyone who is slumping, anyone who may be dealing with injury or illness or setback, those people are lesser and are not part of the garden party.
I'm sure there were many gatekeepers in the crowd at this past weekend's event, but I had the displeasure of interacting with one in particular. Names shall not be shared, even tho this person is almost certain never to lower themselves to read what I write and have it implied here that they are labeled such. I'm content just noting that they very clearly made it known that they felt superior to many others, including me in particular.
When I have run I've worked hard to build an inclusive community of people in the sport. Maybe that's because I've never been set apart in any way by my own level of achievement. But I'd like to think that there is more to this running thing we do than just putting in miles and conquering races, that there are friendships, and opportunities to make us all part of something crazy and amazing. I'd like to think that two thousand people on top of a mountain make it possible for half of them to run and even fewer to finish. I'd like to think that it's about creating a community and not putting an individual on a pedestal.
I'm not alone in those thoughts, certainly, but it is very clear there are other opinions on the matter.
Don't be a gatekeeper.
10 months ago
June 23, 2022
Each summer for the last few I’ve hosted a small adventure club for a group of my running friends. We call them Adventure Runs, though running occasionally turns out to be only a minor component of the adventure.
So…. once again it is summer, and once again yesterday morning I posted our secret meetup location in our chat server, anticipated all day long, then finally after work ended for the day drove to the secluded parking spot and waited to see who else showed up.
It had rained all afternoon.
Not just rained. It had poured, complete with thunder and lightning, clacks of huge rain droplets batting against the windows and sending coworkers on our video meetings running off camera to close windows and comfort pets.
At 5pm we were texting back and forth about whether to delay our running plans.
But by 6pm the sunshine was back and I was lacing up my trail shoes and trying to remember exactly how to navigate the city streets to where I’d agreed to meet up for a local adventure.
The thing about trying to find interesting and unique places to run in the suburbs of a big city is that we really have just two choices for trails that are not of the well-maintained asphalt or crushed shale-surfaced accessible recreational locales: we either need to drop into the river valley or we need to find a bit of wilderness trapped between the cultivated corridors of roads, housing and shopping malls.
A dozen years ago a major infrastructure project resulted in the city building a ring road encircling a major part of the established city-proper. The road itself is almost eighty kilometers long with access points into and out of town every three to five klicks, and while in most places it snakes by the clusters of houses with naught but a bit of grassy ditch to separate the two, there are huge swaths of road anchored inside what’s called a transportation utility corridor (TUC) where clearance has been maintained to build roads, power transmission lines, and oil pipelines.
I was also acutely aware of a spot not too far (but not easily accessible) where a particularly interesting swath of TUC had been combined with some natural preserve, an old, blocked off access road, and an interesting destination at the end of the connected trail.
into the woods
On any given summer day, the trail that led from the quasi-parking lot to the east access of the locally famous “graffiti tunnel” would have been a moderately challenging bit of dirt-based single track weaving through and around eclectic landscapes crushed between a busy highway to the south and a winding high-watered creek to the north.
An hour after our quadrant of the city had been doused in an afternoon summer storm, those same trails were glistening and muddy, the tall grasses were hung heavy with rainwater, and the protruding heaps of clay silts that marked the marshy landscape near to the creek were more slippery than had we been running on our familiar winter ice slicks.
As we descended into this twisting, wet, and perilous collection of intersecting trails, each of the seven of us often veering off course to find a bit of path we were individually more comfortable with, a mix of caution and excitement bubbled through the group.
At one point I stopped abruptly with two of my companions close on my heels, slamming on my brakes in the wet mud and barely avoiding stepping on a medium-sized garter snake soaking up the sun on the middle of the path. I shooed it away and “stood guard” as one of my ophidiophobic running mates inched by and squealed in fear.
More tall grass (hiding nasty ticks!)
A scramble hand-over-hand up a small, nearly impassible hill.
A leap of faith over an ant hill the size of a small car.
And wet feet all around, even though we never did get very close to the creek at all.
While the west side of the graffiti tunnel is accessible from a gentle gravel path connected to some of our local neighbourhood running routes, the east side (separated by a muddy creek) is only found on foot by following the two-and-a-half klick route through the trees and grass and wilderness-laden ditch through which we had just run.
We ogled the years of overlapping graffiti that covered the old pedestrian underpass (yet to be connected to the trail system-proper even eighteen years after it’s installation), took a bunch of photos and selfies, and then contemplated our alternate routes back to the cars… ultimately deciding to face the known perils of retracing our steps back rather than trying to find a simpler (but far longer) route home.
It is almost a rite of passage for a guy who plans crazy running routes to listen to the grumbles and complaints, cursing and swearing of those silly enough to follow him into the wilderness.
And it is certainly rewarding to lead all of those people full circle to their cars and to realize that every single one of them just experienced something they’ll remember for long after we’ve all gone home and washed the mud from our ankles.
11 months 3 weeks ago
Sunday Runday and rather than lacing up to run this morning, I instead bundled up warm and packed my lawn-chair down to the local dog park where I’d signed up to volunteer to help out with the sixteen kilometre-long 5 Peaks Trail Race.
The 5 Peaks series is a race that I’ve tackled myself multiple times in the past, particularly the edition of it that happens to run through the trails of the dog park that is a five minute drive from my house.
This year, with a couple friends opting to run it and a couple others choosing to do their part for the local running scene and volunteer, I sided with the volunteer crew and held down a station about three kilometers into the course (and at the top of a grueling hill) waving runners around a detour and cheering them on by clapping until my hands were numb.
I admit I don’t volunteer often enough… though that frequency is greater than zero.
As simple as it is, even a little race like this one for a few hundred people took (according to the thank you email that came to my inbox this evening) seventy five volunteers, each working about six hours to make the race come to life.
I’ve plodded through many courses myself and waved and thanked hundreds (if not thousands) of volunteers who’ve stood beside intersections or manned water stations or handed out swag or helped me find parking for my vehicle.
It makes me realize that in a year where I’m still a little less than keen to run a heap of actual races, it might make a lot of sense to find ways to participate without sneakers and a bib and to bring that volunteer frequency number up a lot higher in relation to my finisher medal count.
It’s about keeping the sport strong and vibrant.
It’s about giving back to something that has given me a lot over the years.
And it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling all around, too.
more feets with friends.
Since 2012 we’ve banded together as more than just “people who meet at the local running store” have trained together, socialized, and generally built a small training crew that supports each member.
We’re not necessarily fast. Many of us are work-a-day suburbanites who are running for fun and fitness. Our groups do a variety of distances and paces, depending on the season and upcoming races.