Columbus Marathon training: Soloin'

My training group meets twice a week; we're given a training program for the rest of the week that includes rest days (my favorite!), a few cross-training days (which I'm bad at actually doing, because hey, isn't life a cross-training exercise?), and one other "no, really, you need to run" day.

So on Thursdays, I run alone.

One recent afternoon, I found myself more alone than usual, having forgotten my headphones. (When I'm running solo, I like to listen to podcasts. It's actually one of the little details of running I love - I get to take large chunks of  time listening to my favorite shows and classify it as something good for me!) But on this day, it was not to be. So I set out for an "easy" four miles with only my breath and my thoughts.

This was the first time in a long time - possibly ever - that I'd run without someone to talk to or my headphones to keep me company. As I trotted along, I made up a little mental chant to keep myself focused:
Take it easy
Nice and slow
You can do it
Here we go!
And as I continued down the trail (a popular spot for running, walking, and biking), I noticed something that I'd never caught onto before in nearly 10 years of running. I realized that nearly every runner without headphones in would give me a smile of encouragement, and in many cases even say, "Good job!" I'd been on this trail many times before and never noticed this tendency for other runners to encourage strangers who happened to be on the same path as them. And indeed, the runners with headphones jogged by with no acknowledgement, still in their own worlds.

And it was then I realized that I was never truly alone on a run. Not as long as another runner was on the same path. I could choose to be alone with my headphones, or I could choose to wave and smile to everyone, but I've got the choice. I'm part of a community. I'm only as solo as I choose to be.

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