At the starting line I felt like a lion waiting to be let out of my cage. I was rip roaring and ready to go. Ready to race? Indeed! I was ready to rumble, but I was also incredibly eager to witness my athletes tackle their individual races and goals.
At mile one I logged a 6:17 and felt untouchable.
At mile 2 my pace appropriately settled into the 6:40s, my legs started to get heavy and the wind was pushing me backwards.
At mile 2.8 I was begging for the finish line to approach faster and barely held onto a sub 7 split
At mile 3 I was thankful that the end was in sight yet impatient that I wasn’t quite there! I swear they keep moving the finish line farther back each year!
As I crossed the finish line my thoughts where far away from my first place finish. Fueled by a racing high I quickly caught my breath, grabbed a water and turned around to cheer in my coached athletes who were racing alongside me: Kristi, Lisa, Adrienne, Flower and Mark. After each athlete crossed the finish line they joined me on the sidelines to cheer in the remaining runners in our crew.
Our crew… hmmm…. That day we became a crew, a group, a team.
We didn’t train together.
We didn’t race together.
Heck, none of them even knew each other before the day began!!
I’ve been providing one-0n-one online coaching services to each athlete for approximately the past 6-9 months and this was the first time I brought them together to meet and race. Near strangers with different run histories, paces, goals and dreams, they they were standing shoulder to shoulder at the finish cheering each other on through the final steps of the Quincy YMCA Frozen 5k . “Push!!! Push!!! HARDER!!! FASTER!! RUN FASSSSSTER!!! Go! Go! Go!”
Behold the magic of the run-game.
After all the athletes completed the race we stood together in a celebratory huddle and something suddenly occurred to me. “Wait a sec?! Who here PR’ed today!!!” I looked up to see that each and every one of my five athletes raising their hand. Five athletes, 5 PR’s, 2 age group awards, a first place finish for the ladies race and a whole lot of love and support within our crew.
There was magic in the air that day. I witnessed my athletes cheer each other on. They shared stories about racing, past accomplishments, future race plans and goals. They high-fived. They laughed. We did a cooldown jog together that was longer than the race itself. 🙂 We had coffee and then talked some more. I’ll admit that it was hard to pull myself away to head to work!
Something special happened that morning and it has taken me a few days to process it all before putting it out there into the world.
This is what I have gathered so far…
You- yes I’m talking to YOU dear reader– You run for a very specific reason, a personal, private reason- of this I am sure. Your passion is fueled by a storm that has been brewing deep within your soul and tucked safely away from the public eye. Maybe you run to catch a glimpse of a happier, healthier self in the midst of a crazy stressful life. Or maybe you run to escape your self-deprecating thoughts, deep dark fears or worries about tomorrow. It’s possible that you run to feel everything all at once, or even to feel nothing at all. Running puts the spring in your step, the reboot in your morning and the balance in your life.
Our colorful lives are comprised of the good, the bad and the ugly. The reality is that we’ve all been there alone in that dark place looking for the light. This reality is not meant to be stifling, but rather motivating as people are truly more alike than different. We feel. We hurt. We hope. We march onward. Only when someone is willing to face their fears and challenge themselves will they truly evolve and rise higher.
I spend a significant portion of this blog describing my own story: the story of a running, working marathon mom who is passionate about the run-game, who is relentlessly pursuing her happiness and who is quickly adapting to new challenges and a new life. Yet each of my athletes has his/her own story to tell too: A police officer who longs to get in shape and run a half-marathon, a mom of 2 who often reminds herself “I am DONE with ‘starting over'” to get herself out the door, a woman who needs to get mean and angry as she chases the elusive BQ, a 46 year old working marathon mama who is on the road by 4:45 AM to GET IT DONE and young lady who returned to the run-game in September after a painful stress fracture.
Near strangers we connected via the blog and/or at the running store and began our working relationship together. For the past six months I have had the pleasure of providing one-on-one online coaching services to each of these amazing athletes and I have learned a lot about running and life and the like from them. I have learned that…
It takes commitment to wake up at 4:45 am and run in the cold darkness while your babies are still sleeping.
It takes passion to head out on a run at 9 am when you’ve worked a midnight to 8 am shift, four days in a row!
It takes strength to reach out for help when you want to take back control of your life and your body don’t have a clue where to begin.
It takes trust to return to running after a stress fracture with a coach who makes you run fewer miles at a significantly slower pace than you’re accustomed.
It takes courage to admit that you have a goal (cough cough BQ) soooo close within reach that it requires you to embrace a side of yourself that you’ve yet to explore: a ruthless runner who needs to dig deeper to get mean and angry on the road. You want it baaaaad and its time to lean in and embrace the discomfort.
Day after day emails have been sent back and forth between my athletes and myself as they have braved their own training challenges. What on Earth should I be eating before I run?… Why is my heart rate higher on the treadmill?… My husband is driving me insane… I’m feeling frazzled from work!!! Do I have to run today… besides it’s late and it’s pouring out… (Yes you do have to run today. Boom #youvebeencoached).
While I am there for daily email support, it up to each athlete to face her own challenges and daily stressors. There is only so much you can do as a coach to help someone reach their goal; at some point the person needs to take action and live their own life. This is exactly what my athletes do. Day after day they face their fears. They take action. They live their lives. They relentlessly work towards their goals and in the process they transform themselves inside and out.
Like myself each of my 12 athletes trains alone. They run their own races. They face their own fears. They live their own lives.
In six months I have helped these individuals transform their running and in return they have transformed me. My experience at the YMCA Frozen 5k opened my eyes to the notion that maybe we’re all Lone Runners with goals, challenges and stories to tell. What if you can be a Lone Runner but not be destined to be alone…?
Running has the power to bring us together, to heal us, to transform us and make us reach higher, right?
Can you see my wheels churning? 🙂 Let’s take it a step further…
We trained separately.
We raced apart.
We faced our fears.
We rose higher.
I believe that today is the day of something great.
Today is the dawn of The Lone Runners.
A Proposal: Calling all runners and writers
What’s your story?
I am beginning a new column on the blog entitled The Lone Runners. Do you have a run story you want to tell? A time where you overcame a hurdle in life? A defining moment when you started to believe in yourself? Or maybe you just want to talk about how running heals you a little bit each day.
Do you want to tell your story but not air your dirty laundry? Would you prefer to remain anonymous? That’s fine. Let me publish it for you.
Submit your articles and stories to me, Kass Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a sense we are all Lone Runners who face personal challenges in our private lives.
We run alone. We race alone.
We are all Lone Runners…
… but we don’t have to be alone.
Help me create a community space for runners where we can lean on each other and learn from each other.
Never Stop Running,
Kass/The Lone Runner