Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday Night Adventures – A Runner’s Dichotomy

n the middle of our 21-mile journey from the Lower West Side to Central Park this weekend, my Flyer friend BH and I passed by the usual running grounds of the famed Monday Night Group Run. I had heard extensively about this weekly run from many Flyers over the passed year, but since it was held in the opposite corner of Manhattan from where I lived and Mondays tend to be my busiest clinic day in the hospital, I never had the chance to run with this particular group before. It was too bad really as many of the faster guys in the club usually run with the Monday group and I would relish the opportunity to get to know them better. Before we left that day, BH extended an open invitation for me to join their run and I promised I would make it out sometime during the year, as my schedule and time permits.

Of course it didn’t dawn on me until the next day (Sunday) that Monday was a holiday this week, which meant I could actually come out for my first ever Monday night run! I contacted BH to confirm the time and meeting place and made arrangements to run with them the next day.

Unfortunately, BH didn’t make it to the run today. He got stuck at work and couldn’t make it downtown in time to join us. So instead, I ran with a couple of new Flyers. (There was a bunch of people at this run that I didn’t get to meet. Such is life when you’re fast and you come late.) Well, actually it was one new Flyer (GG) and one old Flyer (ES) that was new to me. We lead the pack and ran together for the duration of the run. Apparently all the speedsters bailed on the run today which allow ES and I to dictate a relaxed and manageable pace for the run. It was cold and at times windy but it truly was a beautiful night for running. Underneath a sky so clear you can see stars, with the bright lights of city life on one side and the serenity of the black Hudson on the other, we had the West Side bike path all to ourselves as we made our way down through Battery Park to the tippy tip of Manhattan Island before doubling back to where we had started.

Along the way, we talked on and on, sharing stories of marathons past and training philosophies of marathons to come. It’s been such a long time since I’ve run with anyone new that I forgot how fun it was just to hear about running from a different perspective than my own. Although I’m often hesitant to run with a group for fear that my easy pace is faster than what any of the other runners can maintain, I do enjoy running with others when the timing is right and opportunity presents itself. As I was trying to explain to my friend over the weekend, life in the fast line is not as glamorous as it would seem to the outside world. When no one can keep up with you, guess what, you’re always going to be running by yourself.

I thought a lot about this “fast runners’ dichotomy” on the subway ride home that night – that as I’m getting faster and stronger from marathon training, I’m also separating myself more and more from friends in the middle of the pack. This can be advantageous in a race, but may not be so in a planned group activity. Does anyone else ever feel that way? ANYONE? (And in case you’re wondering…no, this wasn’t a ploy to elicit any congratulatory comments on my speed, but a real concern I have!)

Needless to say, I discovered a bit about others and myself after that run. I finally realized what I miss out on when I’m out there pounding the pavement on my own day after day. And even though I ended up running many more miles (12+) than expected that night, I think I gained a lot more than I lost in terms of training. Believe it or not, it has also renewed my interest and enjoyment for my own individual running as well. Hopefully, I can incorporate more social running on a consistent basis in the rest of marathon training.

18 comments:

Uggh said...

I don't know about the fast lane but I will say that I usually run alone. Not really by choice but more because of my schedule and newness to the sport. I envy that you have a running team. I had great experiences like you wrote about above, only with a cycling team (but they would sooner go to work than go for a run with me). I always think I'll be able to find some conversation on a run in the park. It almost never happens. I guess my fear of being pepper sprayed it greater than my need for conversation.
Still, I can relate to your post

nyflygirl said...

I say it's the lesser of 2 evils...I mean, at least you have the option and ability to slow down. Me? I can't necessarily speed up-unless it was supposed to be a planned tempo run (which is not usually the case), or if I want to sacrifice my own training, which I don't. Which is why I have to run alone a lot.

The Laminator said...

Actually, nyflygirl...again, you know I'm not a speed snob so don't take this the wrong way...but it actually hurts my knees when I force myself to run more than 1:00-1:30 min/mi slower than my usual training pace...especially after 6 miles. It's not as benign as you think.

But, yes, I agree...I know it is more frustrating to run slower than average than faster than average. (But what are you talking about...after the year you had last year...so close to a B.Q., you should not think of yourself as slow. I'm sure there's lot of peeps who would love to run at your speed).

Cowboy Hazel said...

I agree with you to a certain extent -- It can be tough not being able to go for a lot of the group runs, etc., but the thrill of being able to run "fast" completely outweighs all that, at least for me. I also feel very fortunate that people near our pace have a little extra room to manuever in the races. Whenever we double back (like in the Bronx), I'm always reminded how lucky I am not to be stuck in that huge mass of people.

As a side note: I don't consider myself a "fast runner." I see guys putting up sub-4 minute miles or 2:15 marathons and my efforts suddenly look ridiculous. I'd give anything to be up there competeing with those times, but I'm not and never will be, so I try to make peace with just running for myself at a pace that's right for me.

Running and living said...

I can completely relate. I started out running with a mom's running group, but pretty soon myself and 3 other moms would lead the pack and never get a chance to talk to the other runners.
I started training for a marathon with 2 of the faster moms, but our motivation is not the same, and I ended up getting faster and stronger, which makes it hard to do the long runs together - I have to wait for them on top of a large hill, or take off for the last 5 miles in order to get my average pace where it should be. But I know marathon training will end shortly and then I'll just go for some easy fun runs and try ot catch up with everyone...
Ana-Maria
P.S. I am actually not that speedy...just speedy compared to my peer running group

Michelle said...

Hi I am in no way your level of running at all. But, if I want to try to run faster than I have to run alone otherwise I am held back by the fastest runner in the group i am with and that is still usually slower than I'd like to run.

So, while i love running with people, i think I need to be on my own when i need faster runs!!!

Great job dude!!!

Irish Cream said...

I'm actually really glad you posted this, Lam . . . it's really interesting to get to see a fast runner's POV on this stuff. Ha, I'm usually on the slow side of the equation, constantly worrying about slowing other people down and getting all jealous of faster runners . . . so thank you for showing me that it can be tough on the fast runners too! :)

audgepodge said...

I have the same comment as above - my concern is that I'm too slow to run with others. Sure, they can slow down to keep pace with me but I want them to have a good run as well. And as much as I love conversational runs, those just slow me down even more! That's why I love the pace groups at the Nike training runs... there are so many runners that it is really easy to find peeps that you are speed-compatible with :)

Jamie said...

I nearly always run on my own thanks to my "awesome" travel schedule. It is lonely some days. But when I have run with others I'm always concerned I'm slowing them down. When I run with my slower friends I don't mind taking it easy to help them get through the run. But I can only do that every so often.

Susan said...

While I'm not the ultimate speedster, I like to think that I can hold my own, and I've run across difficulties trying to find running buddies. (When I was actively seeking one, that is...I don't really try anymore!) I once ran with some new people, and at the end, one person said something to the effect of "I thought we were taking it easy today!" I guess we weren't as close in pace as I thought, since I was definitely taking it easy. I guess that's the perk of giant running clubs...more likely to find someone your pace!

X-Country2 said...

Ahh, running bromances are the best!

I'm almost always a solo runner, but I'd like to find more people to run with for all the reasons you mentioned.

The Laminator said...

Wow - thanks you all. Such great comments and stories! It's so cool that we all share such similar experiences. Yes, we're not all speedsters and no matter what our pace is, there's always going to be trouble finding people who run exactly at our pace and we have to make adjustments to slow down/speed up if we want to run with others.

I think the consensus would be that group time should mix in with alone time. Too extreme on one or the other end would be counterproductive.

Others want to chime in?

I Run for Fun said...

Thanks for this post. I have only occasionally run with others. I am not by any means a fast runner, but I know the challenges of finding a running buddy that matches your pace. I am looking for running buddies myself, so hopefully I find as cool a bunch as you have!

aron said...

i totally know what you mean lam... its hard to find someone at your same pace and it does create a lot of alone running. what is nice is that i have a great group and we all understand we have our own paces, so we can do our own thing, but it is nice to have someone to run with at your normal pace. its hard to run too slow! luckily my husband is really close to my same pace, so when we do run together we get to do a lot of it side by side which i love.

Run For Life said...

I haven't gone for a run with someone in a long time and I miss that connection every once in a while. Nice to know I'm not the only person with the same sentiments!

DebbieJRT said...

I often end up running alone, even on my club group runs. I'm not usually fast enough to stay with the 'fast' runners but I'm often ahead of the slow pack. So I end up running by myself in the middle. It will change as the summer gets closer and I start training and picking up the pace.

Irish Cream said...

Lam, I hope I didn't scare you re: Prospect Park! I promise it's not that bad . . . in fact it is far less hilly than Central Park; so if you're okay there, you'll totally be fine in Prospect Park. Ha, I think I probably just wasn't used to running the hills at anything faster than a sloooow long-run pace and thus, it hit me pretty hard. Plus, I don't think you guys will have to deal much (if at all) with the hillier inner roads; just the main loop. So you just have one big-ish hill to deal with (albeit three times). No worries--you're going to do great tomorrow!! :)

runner26 said...

that's why we have socials and drinking events--so fast runners can get to know slow runners. Pace is a whole different story at a bar ;)

 
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