Confessions of a Lone (and Long) Distance Runner

by Chris McClung

I need to get something off my chest. I have a confession to make, and I am not sure how to say it. I am addicted to something, and it’s very unlike me to be addicted to something, much less THIS particular something.

I will start with a separate confession: I am an introvert. I suppose it’s not really a confession. Those who know me from my younger years, especially the period from birth to early high school, will find this as no surprise. In those years, I was particularly shy and had trouble relating socially to the ever-maturing world around me.

My mom says that I didn’t start speaking until the age of 2 1/2. And, when I did finally speak, I went straight to full sentences. Each time she tells the story, I get older each time, just like when she talks about my wetting the bed. I suppose it’s more interesting that way. Anyway… as I grew, if I spoke it was rare, and generally came as a surprise to those around me. I was like an oracle but without anything profound to say when I did open my mouth. In those years, I was definitely an introvert in the general sense.

Today, I am still an introvert but in a more specific sense. Some of you might be familiar with a particular personality-typing system called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  Within the Myers-Briggs system, there are 4 featured personality dimensions, and each dimension has 2 opposing “preferences.” One of those dimensions pits introversion vs. extroversion, but not in the traditional senses of those words. To quote text from the Myers-Briggs website:

“The first pair of psychological preferences is Extraversion and Introversion. Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (Extraversion), or in your inner world of ideas and images (Introversion)?”

Extraversion and Introversion as terms used by C. G. Jung explain different attitudes people use to direct their energy. These words have a meaning in psychology that is different from the way they are used in everyday language.

Scored on the MBTI test, I am a 29 out of 30 on the Introversion preference. What does that mean? According to Dr. Jung, it means that by nature I prefer to get my energy by spending time in my own head and am generally re-charged when I have time alone.  Please note: it doesn’t mean that I don’t like people or spending time with them, it just means that spending time in groups tends to use energy vs. restore it.

So, running has always been a perfect sport for me. Since I began training for road races, I have relished in the loneliness of the distance runner.  Running alone was time for me to tune out the world, get lost in my own thoughts, solve the world’s problems (and sometimes my own), and definitely an opportunity to re-load mentally for the next day (or maybe just the rest of the current day). It has always been my escape, my little vacation at the beginning, middle, or end of each day.

Somewhere along the way, that changed. Somewhere in the last 33 months of training with Rogue, it ALL changed…

That’s right, it’s true. I am one-hundred-percent, certifiably, someone-plan-the-intervention-and-send-me-to-rehab addicted to running WITH A GROUP. I can’t help myself. I need the group… I need my fix. It comes four times per week now, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. But I need more, and it’s gotten bad. To the point where running alone has become a chore, something I don’t look forward to.

After all, when I’m alone, who will be there to entertain me (like Corey or Ed), help me dial into a rhythm (like Mark H, Jillian, Allison, or Asia), motivate me (like Paul or Jim), remind me to run smart (like Kamran or Larry), or, when the time is right, push me until my eyes bleed (like Marc B, Wes, or Bryan)?

Yep, I love my group. Their energy feeds me, makes me a better runner, and makes 5:30 am more fun than you might imagine. But enough about me, I have another story to tell as well.

Last Wednesday, early in the morning, I was coaching my RFTW 10-Mile group at the track. My group was doing a ladder workout while Mark’s marathon group was doing the infamous Yasso 800s. Lots of them. As our groups circled the track, I couldn’t help but notice two ladies from Mark’s group who were running each lap in lock step with one another.

With every interval, they ran shoulder to shoulder in lanes one and two, alternating who ran on the inside lane between repeats. During their recovery segments, I listened as they coached each other on how the paces matched up with their targets and what they needed to do nail the next one. Mark was there too, providing support, but these women were coaching each other at the same time. Without them knowing it, I watched them earnestly as they finished every single step of that workout together, not as two runners on separate paths with unique goals, but as a unit, each person responsible for each other and the whole. It was a form of art in motion. It was a beautiful thing.

Who says running has to be a lonely sport or that you are responsible for achieving your goals alone? Not someone who calls him or herself a Rogue.

Chris McClung runs with Team Rogue and currently coaches both the Run for the Water 10 Miler and an Austin Marathon training group.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Lone (and Long) Distance Runner

  1. Pingback: Unplugged | The Rundown

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