Injury causes new perspective on world of running
By Bob Wiles
October 12, 2011 2:00 AM
I used to think that the cliché, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" applied only to ice cream or playoff baseball, but a recent running injury has shown me that it can hit much closer to home.
Running is such a habit for all of us that we sometimes go through our daily routine without appreciating the beauty of the fall foliage we're running past or even the health benefits we're realizing for ourselves. Sometimes we just run because we're runners.
Like grocery shopping on an empty stomach, I've started noticing great things happening everywhere I turn. For starters, you guys are everywhere! Because I took my own running for granted, I think seeing runners out on the road while driving somewhere didn't even register with me. Now I'm hyper-aware of how many dedicated soldiers are out putting in the miles every single day, and I'm admiring (and envying) every one of you.
My house is 6 miles from Great Island Common in New Castle, and my son insists on visiting the playground there at least once per week. Last Thursday evening I passed exactly 17 runners on our way there! The weather wasn't even that great last Thursday, but you were all out there. More of you like to run in small groups than I realized. Some like to fly solo, but packs of 2-5 are very common as well.
Collectively, our Seacoast running community is a powerhouse. When we put our minds to it, we can turn a first-year event from a smattering of runners who all have a loose connection to the cause into an instant classic with over 1,000 runners. Take the Turkey Trot in Portsmouth as an example. In its first year the new race had nearly 1,000 finishers and then last year grew by 30 percent. I can't wait to see how many folks turn up this year to earn their pumpkin pie later in the day!
The Seacoast Road Race Series is probably the best display of our local running obsession. With almost 900 runners taking part in the series this year, participating events can almost bank on more than 1,000 entries preregistered and another few hundred showing up on race day.
In fact, I was volunteering at the latest installment of the series last Sunday at the Great Island 5K and saw the amazing force of our local running community in action. Hopefully I'm not unique in this regard, but I have to admit that when I show up at a race to run I sometimes get a serious case of tunnel vision. I block out most of what is going on around me as I warm up and prepare for the race. We have all run races with thousands of other athletes but the combination of nerves, focus and preparation usually makes me pretty oblivious to everything else that is going on if it doesn't affect me at the moment.
But as a spectator all of that goes away and I got to take it all in with amazement. In fact, I was able to enjoy some nice conversations with folks that I normally wouldn't get to if I was preparing to race. While I was out on the course and runners started flooding by me, I had a startling realization about the volume and diversity of our running community.
I don't think it really matters if you are at the front of the pack, in the middle, or in the back. When the gun goes off we all get into our own zone and focus on the task at hand. Even if you make an effort to notice the folks running alongside you, you'll notice only a few because for the most part you'll all be moving along together. It wasn't until I stood in one spot and watched the entire progression of 1,200 runners whip by that I appreciated what an awesome army we have.
By taking up a spot on the course, I was able to see the entire forest rather than just focusing selfishly on the singular tree that I am. It gave me a new perspective on the entire world of running, and admitting that is slightly uncomfortable.
While running is a largely individual sport and training can sometimes be a lonely task, I'll never again forget that each of us is an important part of a community of runners on New Hampshire's Seacoast, and that community is a large and powerful force.
Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at email@example.com