The most exhilarating feeling came not as I crossed the finish line of the NYC Marathon. Rather it was as I was turning off Fifth Avenue into Central Park. I looked to the right over my shoulder and there was Jay. We had run together most of the almost 24 miles to that point, pausing to stretch at irregular intervals, waiting for one another at the far side of a water station when we got separated. We had agreed we would try to finish the course together. But somewhere on Fifth Avenue we had lost each other.
I met Jay many years ago when I started running with the Northwest Running Club. It was 1996. My son, Chris, and I decided to train together to run our first marathon. I trained with Duane and Jane and Jerry, Jay and Sharon. On occasion, one or two others would join us for a long run around the Lakes. Chris, of course, trained with a faster paced team. We began to call ourselves “the deviants” because we tended not to follow the assigned route or the scheduled pace that the rest of the club was running on any given day. Sharon and Jay got married a few years later. Running together for hours forged some of my most enduring friendships.
For all the miles I have run with others across the years, there have been many more solitary runs. I have paced myself by the mile on the Luce Line that connects us to lakes, East and West, just at the bottom of the hill from our home. My dog, Zoe, used to run me on the trail. Sometimes early in the morning when the mist was still on the pond, we’d go off-trail at the Woodrill Reserve. I’d unleash her and let her run until we got to our “secret place,” a lone crab apple tree standing in a small field on the other side of the forest. She knew where it was. Zoe admittedly broke the solitude of my runs. She was a rambunctious but endearing companion through some of the loneliness hours of my life.
Solitude is not easy for me. I am masterful at interrupting myself by myself. Despite my intellectual assent to the practice of meditation and centering, I seem to be severely handicapped when I want to stop running and just be quiet. “The Necessity of Empty Spaces” was a retreat I facilitated in the Mojave Desert to help others find a time and place not filled with disruption and distraction. Often I am better at quieting others than calming myself.
Jay and I finished the NYC marathon together. Despite previous good intentions, this was the first time I had ever trained and crossed the finish line together with a running buddy. To this day I am grateful for the companionship running has afforded me. At the same time, I acknowledge I need to learn to pace myself in place.