Solitude is a very interesting concept to me. I spent most of my pre-teen years with my head in a book. At one point in 5th grade, I was in a year long contest with one of my friends, Debra, to see who could read the most books in one school year. Even though reading is usually a solitary activity, I never felt alone. In fact, I worked hard throughout high school, college, and my early 20s to ensure that I was never truly alone. I was afraid to be by myself, afraid of not having endless chatter distracting me because if that endless chatter wasn’t there, I’d actually have to examine my life and decide what I wanted to do with it.
Since moving to Colorado and taking up trail running, I’ve realized that I really enjoy being truly alone. There is something magical about standing on top of a mountain or a ridge, seeing the vast expanse of wilderness at my feet, that makes me feel amazing, powerful, alive. Running in the wilderness is freeing, there are no schedules because I can never plan for what I will experience. Some days I can run for 5 or 6 miles and every step is a conscious effort. On days like those I need to dig deep for motivation (I’m working on a post about motivation but it’s so hard to put into words – so stay tuned for that one). Other days I step out of my car, lace up my awesome running shoes (check out Inov-8 Terrafly), and when I look down at my watch, I’ve logged 20 miles. It’s during those runs that I fully appreciate the vast unknown of solitude. Returning to the city is almost a shock to my system, with all the people and schedules and expectations.
Even though I crave the feeling of solitude, sometimes it’s really nice to have company. Yesterday I went for a run with my new running buddy. The fact that I went on a run with someone else is amazing in and of itself because it has been impossible to find someone who runs at my speed, wants to run long distances in the mountains, and doesn’t drive me crazy by the time we’re done running. Luckily for me, and hopefully for her, my new running buddy was AWESOME! Yesterday’s run was the kind where I really needed the company. The first trail, in Betasso Preserve, had about 6″ of snow, untracked, on the north-facing slopes, so we abandoned that trail after one 7 mile loop and went to Magnolia Road, where we were inundated with spraying slush and mud from the passing cars. Despite the conditions, the run was awesome. If it hadn’t been for the great company, I would have quit after Betasso, but I’m so glad we continued on.
Yesterday’s run reminded me that, in my running, solitude is wonderful and gives me a chance to really examine myself and my life, but sometimes I really need company. Unfortunately I never know at the start of a run what is going to help pull me through, but I now know that running with someone else can be just as amazing as running by myself. There is a time and place for everything, I just have to learn to recognize whether solitude or company is the better in one specific instance.
For those of you who like to just hear about my day-to-day life and don’t care about my musings, fear not because a regular post will be forthcoming. Let me know in the comments if you want more of my musings and take some time this week to find your own definition of solitude (or company), it really is freeing.