Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Maybe it’s just me?

Last night, while I was half-heartedly enjoying my green tea, I finished Bart Yasso’s book “My Life on the Run”.  It was late and I was exhausted so it took a little while to push through the last few pages, but I was successful in closing the book for the last time. 

It was a cool thing to read recounts of past events from someone who grew up in the Lehigh Valley.  Bart mentioned places that I’ve been and races I’ve participated in.  I felt like we had a connection.  He often mentioned the camaraderie among runners…we’re like a breed of people.  We stick together.  Really? 

I started running regularly back in September of 2008.  So many reasons pushed me to buy my first ‘real’ pair of running sneakers.  Maybe it was because I had already registered for the Emmaus Halloween Parade 5K.  I was overwhelmed with nervousness and excitement that day.  In one breath I couldn’t wait to start and in another I was wishing that it was already over. 

I didn’t have a running partner or even a friend that had signed up for the race.  Gus dropped me off at the starting line and he’d meet me at the finish.  I didn’t know what to expect from the people and the race itself.  To add insult to injury I was dressed as a bumble bee…well, it was a Halloween parade race! 

I wasn’t really forced to make eye contact with too many people and since it was dark out I couldn’t really see anyone anyway.  I happened to bump into a woman who had taken a few of my yoga classes.  We chatted for a few and that was it.  No one else said hello or tried to strike up a conversation with me.  Everyone appeared to be in their own little worlds. 

Now, I had heard of this running social circle or supposed ‘camaraderie’ that I mentioned above.  Perhaps I wasn’t seeing it because I was a bundle of nerves. 

Perhaps it was something else.

Not too many people would hit the road in late fall through winter around my regular routes, so I didn’t have the opportunity to throw up a friendly wave or nod, but I was almost craving the moment.  The next big race I would run was the Super Bowl 10K.  I was again nervous because I had never run that far before AND again, I still didn’t have a running partner and I didn’t know of any people who signed up to race. 

At the starting line people were in their own little worlds; some drinking coffee, others stretching by themselves; some were hanging around with their families, others with their friends.  A few of us were loaners…just walking back and forth waiting for the start of the race.  No one said hello or even tried to strike up a conversation. 

At a few points during the race I actually tried to lighten up the mood by breaking the ice with some people keeping pace with me (or me with them).  “Whew, this hill sucks!”  Yeah, no response.  Nada, nothing.  Hell, I thought it was funny. 

So I finish that race.  No new friends.

Insert a few more races with the same experiences.  Nothing.

The weather, as always, started to turn in mid-April and I ran the Lehigh Parkway a few times.  This was an entirely different experience.  For the most part I exchanged a greeting or some friendly gesture with every person that I encountered.  There were even a few people who would make a little small talk and then go on their merry way.  It was a refreshing change to what I had experienced; however, I wasn’t satisfied.  A lot of seasoned runners hit the Parkway and I’m convinced that the people I saw there were some of the same people I saw at the starting lines of those mentioned races.  WHY CAN’T THE ATTITUDE CARRY ON TO THE RACE?  Maybe they’re as nervous as I?  Maybe not talking, or being stoned faced is their way of focusing?  Who knows?

May 3rd was the LV 1/2 Marathon.  For the most part I wasn’t paying attention to anyone around me because I was focused on myself.  I was worried about everything…was I dressed appropriately?  did I have enough to eat?  did I eat too much?  what if I have to pee?  will I finish?  To boot, there were thousands of people. 

I made small talk with someone in the port-a-potty line and actually found an old friend on the other side of that line.  We chatted for a few minutes and then parted ways.  I took my place at the start and just hung out waiting for the race to start.  So many people surrounded me, but other rude people were still trying to squeeze in.  It got very tight that I bumped into the guy next to me.  I apologized and he accepted with a nervous smile.  I came to find out, through conversation (!), that this was his first 1/2 and he was anxious to get going. 

Bart Yasso’s stories were/are inspiring.  He’s done so much in his life and has met so many interesting people.  He owes it all to running; it’s a common bond among that group and it’s a strong bond.  So, if runners are a strong group and there’s this camaraderie I keep mentioning why…why was there a runner sidelined in the Parkway, during the 1/2 marathon, with a knee injury?v Why were people running past her, not even looking in her direction?  Why was I, a ‘newbie’ to this group, the only one who stopped to see if she was okay?  Why?

People afraid to stop?  Focusing on that PR?  Disgusting.

So, today, during my 5 mile run in the Outer Banks I asked myself these questions. 

Maybe there are a lot of nervous people out there…maybe I have been surrounded by newbies at each race and they’re wondering why I’m so stuck up.  Maybe people did ask that woman if she was okay, but those people weren’t any where in my little pack of 15.  Maybe I just need to be a little more positive.