Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who is a runner?

Last Saturday, July 4th, when the rest of the world was sleeping in, sunning at the beach, drinking ice cold beer and strawberry daquiris, or simply enjoying ginormous hamburgers, ice cream, apple pie and all the other tasty summer treats, I was pounding the pavement. I wasn't alone, though. Nope. Nine other silly triathletes decided to join me as I endeavored on an unsupported Olympic distance triathlon right here in sunny Lakeland, FL. We jumped right off the dock into a lake and swam 1 mile (gators be damned!), then hopped on the bikes and rode through the streets of Lakeland, and ended with a sweaty 6 mile run in the heat of the day. It was great and honestly, I really don't think I would have preferred to do anything else that day. But, thinking back over it makes me consider the running and triathlon community a bit. Maybe it's just Lakeland or maybe it's running communities in general.... I suppose it could also be the way I speak so convincingly of the fun of torturous endeavors or stupid human feats and thus recruit poor souls to do things with me. Whatever it is, I love being part of a community of people who are so in tune with the ideas of challenge, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and of course reward for a job well done (that would be the beer garden after a race)!

It's interesting to me that after high school suddenly the lines between the cool people and the dorks get a little murky and people redistribute themselves into new groups and even multiple groups based on anything from religion to sport to a love of some weird computer game. Running is one of those groups that seems boundless in regards to age, gender, nationality, ability....really, any limit at all. In one week, I may share the road with someone more than twice my age or someone who worships differently than me. I could race next to a landscaper, a doctor, or even a stay at home mom. And here's the best part! At the end, when we all stand around drinking water or Gatorade (or BEER!!!), we can talk endlessly about a common ground that unites us in some weird brotherhood. I know that every person standing there was once a beginner. I know they have all tried and failed. I know they all have accomplished something that satisfies them on a personal level like nothing else. We may never talk about it, but you can see it in the twinkle of an eye. It is apparent in the finishing moment when you see the pain on their faces contort to a smile so full of life and accomplishment. And you understand. You've been there.

I love running. I love everything about it. But I really love runners.

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