The Church of the Long Run

By Steve Sisson, Founder

There is this very peculiar ritual that occurs on weekends all around the world. Tribes of fools gather, or embark solo, to intentionally bring great suffering upon themselves. Many of these strange denizens of the road awaken at hours even Army Rangers and Navy Seals consider ridiculously early. This not a masochistic cult or a cabal of NSSI addicts; though “addict” is a term these athletes would likely, if begrudgingly, cop to. Instead, this is a celebration of the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again; sometimes fast, sometimes slowly, week after week. Religiously. We call it The Church of the Long Run. The church I am a member of meets at 5:30 or 6:30am every Saturday. It’s called Rogue Running.

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Call me crazy, but I believe there is something special going at 410 Pressler and 2800 Whitestone, just as there was when we were on the Eastside and before that at RunTex on S. 1st Street. Anyone who has been at Rogue on Saturday can attest that there is something magical about the experience of few hundred people gathering together to share their suffering.

To me, one of the truly amazing aspects of the Rogue experience is that much of what makes the programing so impactful was completely unintended. My goal in starting Rogue was to provide elite level training to anyone with the will and desire to stick to the six month, physically and mentally challenging program. If they completed the program, they would complete a marathon. The initial vision was towards results, even if for most in our program the result was just getting to the finish line. Along the way the commitment of serious, focused athletes of all levels coalesced into a powerful, life-changing community.

I didn’t realize before Rogue how powerful the group experience can be. To me, the sport of long distance running was always about a singleminded, lonely pursuit of numbers. Whether the focus was on the numbers at the front of your name (place) or the at the back of your name (time) or both, the ends justified the means. The experience of being a Rogue dramatically expanded my experience of being a runner and even of being a human. While there has always been the intent to foster community I have been completely unprepared for that community to become a family.

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Each of these families are the direct product of a coach: an experienced guide who believes in the life affirming power of a running program, in general, and the unique opportunity the long run provides to challenge one’s preconceived limits. We are all motivated by further and faster. We’ve grown up in a goal driven society and it takes something very special to take us out of an acquisitional mode and into process driven mentality. I believe that it is this transition, from the “me-and-my-results” to “the experience-and-those-who-experience-it-with-me” viewpoint that is the difference between a group of people running together and The Church of the Long Run. To put it frankly, we all want “more”. We struggle to define what “more” is until we are sharing our innermost secrets with near strangers on a 20 mile run. Yes, it’s weird. Perhaps it is socially unacceptable. But we’ve all been there; and in that moment, on that long run, it seems entirely appropriate; necessary even. Our definition of family broadens beyond the confines of blood in the veins to blood spilled. I do not think the battlefield analogy is too strained.

What is this experience, and why does it affect those of us who have experienced it so strongly? I don’t know. I am not a sociologist or psychologist; I am a coach. And I know what magic feels like and the Church of the Long Run is absolute magic. On Saturday, September 5th please join us at Rogue Running to celebrate this magic of Church of the Long Run. If you are already a Rogue and want to share this and the impact the Rogue training experience has made in your life, then we ask you to invite a friend a friend to join us at 6:45am. If you are reading this and are not already a member of Rogue we welcome you to join us at 6:45am to see what it’s all about.


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Steve Sisson is a beer connoisseur (read: snob), coach of Team Rogue: Dawn Patrol and the founder of Rogue Running. To pick his brain on all things running, drop him a line at stevesisson@roguerunning.com.

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