Run No. 8 – The comforting delusion of the lonely runner

Time 41’ 17”                      Total Distance 7.3 km (4.54 miles)

99.9999% of my runs throughout my life have been on my own.

Partly that is due to circumstances, but mostly it’s due to the fact that I like being alone when I run.

I like being alone with my thoughts, time to think, no distractions.

Of course the other great advantage is that you can happily believe that you are running quite fast.

As recounted in a previous instalment, an encounter with a be-lycra-ed septuagenarian, somewhat dented that particular myth.

However, I have now been back running for a few weeks and I was quite prepared to believe that I had improved.

However, as I toiled around King Lear Lake I heard a soft, gazelle-like footfall behind me.

I was soon overtaken by a guy. He was probably two decades younger than me (see how I’m building in diminishing factors already), and certainly 10 kg lighter.

His relative advantages were somewhat undermined by his carrying in his right hand a 1.5 litre bottle of water. As any serious runner will tell you, carrying a heavy weight in one hand is not conducive to good running. One should use a camel pack, or at least a gourd carried on a belt, as these will improve weight distribution and not prevent your arms from the natural swinging that is important in running.

Yet, in spite of his clear ignorance of good running practice, he nonetheless sped past me with soul-sucking swiftness.

As I watched him (rapidly) disappear, I noted that actually he wasn’t running that quickly. Which could only mean that my own speed was malacological.

I noticed that I was mid-sole striking – more of a joggers footfall- as opposed to the heel-striking of the proper runner. I tried lengthening my stride and for a few hundred metres I was able to at least slow the rate at which my nemesis disappeared.

This provoked the reflection that the lack of comparison is a great weakness in almost every human endeavour. Without rubbing up against those who are better, more committed, more knowledgeable than ourselves, we can easily believe we are better than we are.

Which I guess is one of the reasons why the Christian faith is specifically stated as incapable of solo execution. It can only ever be lived as a communal reality.

An intrinsic part of the Christian faith is the messy, challenging, frustrating, inspiring, encouraging, faith-building interaction with others. Together – with our varied gifts, life-experience, learning, broken-ness, healing – we are capable of helping each other go deeper, understand better, live more fully, our relationship with God and, improve our service in His kingdom.

Alone we can fool ourselves. Together we see the truth. Sometimes that will be an encouragement. Much of the time that will be a spur.