Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Running Alone with a Few Hundred Texans

Workout: Long run/walk, 11 miles

Time: 2.5 hours

Days to marathon: 106

There’s no sugar-coating it; Saturday’s run was tough. I decided to play it safe knee-wise and head down to Town Lake (official name: The Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, http://www.townlaketrail.org/). The “lake” is actually a section of the Colorado River that runs through the heart of downtown Austin, with some wonderfully scenic trail along the shores.

The trail is about 70% fine red gravel and 30% sidewalk, driveways, and bridges crossing the river. It runs more-or-less contiguously for 5 miles on each side, making a full loop just over 10 miles. Unfortunately, the portion of the trail east of I35 (aka, the random city streets because they stopped building the trail there) is notoriously difficult to navigate.

Deciding that getting lost would not enhance my running experience, I elected to stay west of 35 and combine the 7-mile loop and the 4-mile loop–bridges people, there are bridges–to get to the full 11. Let me say right now that I do NOT recommend running loops in general. In my experience, the more times you pass the same tree, the less beautiful that tree becomes. But, I was feeling cautious.

I arrived at the west end of the trail around 8:20am, only to find the high school parking lot we trail patrons invade every weekend overflowing with SUVs. I had never seen the lot this crowded! I attributed the congestion to a combination of runners in training for fall marathons and the record-breaking summer heat forcing otherwise sane people out of bed before 8am on a Saturday. (We’ve had two straight months of highs consistently above 100 degrees. If I do die during this marathon training adventure, it will probably be from heatstroke.)

10 minutes of circling, though, and I was off!

I was off at a walk, anyway. It’s lucky that I make a practice of walking 3-5 minutes as a warm-up for each run, because the crowds on the first bridge would have made running an exercise in futility. There were literally hundreds of people out on the trail with me. Some of these people ran or walked on their own. Some had dogs. Some had strollers. Many ran in pairs or small groups. Some really fun people walked side-by-side in groups of 4 blocking the entire bridge.

Needless to say, I had some time on my hands to contemplate life, and I began contemplating running preferences. Namely, running alone versus running in groups. I’ve always thought of myself as a lone runner. Though I like the idea of meeting friends in the running community, I have traditionally despised running with other people. Yes yes, despised sounds like a strong word, but it’s true! If I like to run a 10:30 mile, and you like to run a 10:00 mile, I don’t find your “Come on, you can do it!” motivating at all. It kind of makes me want to trip you. Only I can’t because you’re running ahead of me. Grr.

I suppose you might be wondering why, if I like running alone so much, I choose to run on the most crowded running trail in the city. The answer is this: I don’t actually want to be alone alone. I’d feel…lonely. I just don’t want to have to keep up with one person in particular. Even more, I don’t want to have to carry a conversation with one person in particular, because that person might notice if I’m panting like I’m running the Olympic 100 meters.

I don’t like to run in groups for the same reason I don’t like to run short races. I have running insecurity.

Look, I’m slow. I know I’m slow. Everyone who sees me running knows I’m slow. My 5K time is pathetic. My 10K time isn’t much better. BUT, if I go up to a long distance, like say a marathon, I’m still slow, but hey, I ran a marathon. And are you really going to make fun of me if I just ran a marathon? (Did I mention I ran a marathon? That’s really far, you know…)

The way I see it, I have two choices: kill myself doing speedwork and maybe eek up to a still slow 9:00 mile, or continue to enjoy myself plodding along at the back of the pack. I think I’d like to enjoy my running. Just do me a favor, when this is all over, don’t go Google my actual time on course. =)

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This entry was posted on August 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized.
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