Hate might be a strong word. It might be the wrong word entirely, but I’m sure that “strongly dislike” is too weak. I’m talking about how I feel running with other people. I don’t like it. I’ll be honest. I just don’t. So, I’m going to explore the reasons why and hopefully make some attempt to explain my position on this.
Most people love running for the social component. It is a social activity for most runners. We meet up in the pre-dawn hours to catch a few miles before work. We gather with our local group for a Saturday morning run then hit the local coffee shop for some joe and a few donuts to reward our dedication. Who wouldn’t love this? We get to interact with nice, like-minded people that we don’t get to see very often. In fact, we may never see these friends outside of these running workouts. Plus we are using these times to promote and continue an active and healthy lifestyle. Who wouldn’t love this?
Now let me clarify that by saying that I don’t always hate running with all people all of the time. I have some good buddies that I hit the trails with on occasion. I meet up with groups and even coordinate group training runs. I enjoy those runs, but I can’t do them often. Just because you do something and even if you do it well doesn’t always mean that you enjoy it. And even if you do enjoy it the way I enjoy our Next Opportunity training runs does not mean that said activity is not extremely exhausting.
I’m an introvert. I embrace that about myself. I didn’t always embrace it. Throughout my younger days as a teen and young adult, there was a constant pressure to be “cool” and get people to like you. That meant sticking yourself out there. It meant drawing attention to yourself. It took me a good quarter century before I was comfortable enough to be proud of the fact that I am introvert. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that I am shy. I certainly am not. I’m not uncomfortable being the center of attention. I’m not uncomfortable speaking in front of a crowd. I’m not uncomfortable being in a crowded social situation. Actually, yes I am. I definitely am.
It is important, however, to be clear that being an introvert doesn’t equate to shyness. It simply means, for me, that I draw my energy from solitude, silence, and introspection. It means I actually ENJOY being alone. I enjoy thinking in silence. It means that, while being comfortable in social situations, I find it absolutely exhausting. Social interaction drains my energy while solitary activities help me recharge my batteries. It is my time to empty the tank of all the stress of everyday life and refill it with good thoughts and energy.
Everyday life has had plenty of stress for me and Brandy personally. We got married in our early 20s and had three kids at a young age. In fact, we had three kids as husband and wife before I even graduated college! Needless to say, my early and mid-twenties were filled with quite a bit of stress as I learned how to be an adult man, a father, a husband, and a working professional all at the same time.
Then I found running. It was the first time in my adult life that I was able to relieve the everyday stress in a way that didn’t negatively impact those I cared about. I was able to decompress and unload my cares, frustrations, and stresses in the solitude of my run. I could leave it out on the road then come home relieved and happy. Running literally changed my life and the lives of my immediate family members. Suddenly Dad wasn’t so pissed off all the time!
Running is my zen time. It is my time, and I know now as a mature adult that I need MY time. Does that sound selfish? It isn’t. It is part of my personality, and it took a long time for me to be comfortable with the idea that this truth is just honesty. It is not selfishness. When I run, it is just me. I don’t listen to music. I don’t talk to people. It is my and the road or me and the trail. I can be completely and totally within myself and allow the stresses and cares of the bigger world melt away as my full attention is on my stride, my breathing, my foot strike. It is the one time outside of work or family life that I can retreat into my own head and process the stresses of the day. I may be tired at the end of the run, but I am also energized!
Some of you reading this have run with me before. You might be thinking, “Geez, did he hate running with me too?” No, of course not. I run with people regularly as part of my job as a Race Director. However, as I said before, it is tiring for me emotionally. Social running is a strange conflict for me where my prefered solitary activity meets social interaction. Social running stresses me out! I no longer can focus on my own thoughts completely. I find myself thinking:
“Do I need to slow down?”
“Am I going to slow?”
“Should I run in front or behind?”
There is a lot to worry about and as a socially awkward person it is tough for me to get into a groove when running with other people. I run with one of my buddies from time to time, and it works because he knows me very well. He knows I’m an introvert and that I don’t necessarily want to talk constantly throughout a run. So he is aware enough to just be ok with running in silence with me. He also understands that I need to “get away” from time to time. So he doesn’t stress when I take off down a hill or lag behind and we don’t see each other for 20 minutes. It is rare for me to find friends that are that emotionally aware and sensative, so that is why that particular running relationship works.
Ultimately, why am I talking about this now? On one hand it is an attempt to explain why sometimes I just straight up decline invitations to group runs. I want to express something that I struggled for a long time to become comfortable with within myself because I know there are others out there with the same personality traits as me. I hope that you will find that it isn’t weird to want to be alone, and if you are uncomfortable in social situations and don’t want to run with your local club, that is OK! And if you do, that is ok too! The point here is this: we all have a unique personality that makes us who we are. We don’t all like the same things in the same way all of the time. But we can all enjoy running in our own way regardless of what that looks like in practice.