A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.
I've been training on my own for a long time because I don't have that many friends that want to go run long distances with me. I've gone out for hours on my own to train and it feels pretty good when I accomplish my long runs... but it still won't feel as good as running with other people. Relationships have a lot to do in life. It moves people, it changes people, it is something that definitely impacts every individual. It's the same in running. When you run on your own, you are the only person you can rely on for encouragement and strength. However, if another person is there to cheer you on or run with you, they give you that push that helps you go forward a lot more stronger. Having a community of encouraging people definitely helps out in endurance races. Having friends that run part of the way with you when you're tired, or cheer you on when you are exhausted is something better than water. Knowing that they're behind you, pushing you towards that goal... it's comforting and keeps you going.
Today, I had to proctor a test, and had to make sure that all the kids were doing there best, so I walked through the classroom. I wore my NB Minimus and walked around the class for 2 hours without putting my heel down in order to train my calves so that I would be able to work on my mid foot strike. It's nice working at school because every day, one kid or another would ask me, 'Mr. Gray, did you exercise today?' because I had told all of school to keep me accountable with my exercise. I now have 500 kids keeping me accountable with my exercise, encouraging me to always do my best, and take steps in order to go forward. During the day, I visited a 3rd grade classroom, and talked a little about me and my running, and after that, I was asked to do a lesson about the science of running a marathon. I was overjoyed and told them that I would definitely do that. After school was over, I rushed back to borrow a book from the Cedar Bluff Library, and found Runner's World: Complete Book of Running, so I changed and went to the RUSH and started cycling and reading the book (after my good ol' 10 pull ups). As I cycled semi-leisurely, I saw how many miles I was cycling, and I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could get to 19 miles in that hour, so the last 15 minutes, I put the book down and pedaled as fast as I could. By the time the clock had run out, I was drenched with sweat, and had cycled 19.1 miles. Right after that, I thought it would be a great idea to start practice running the mid-foot striking, and so off I went, running for 30 minutes on the dreaded treadmill. At first, I started running at an 8:00 min/mile pace (7.5 mph) and had this great idea to increase my mph by .1 every two minutes. As I got tired, the pace quickened, and when I had reached 8.5 mph, I had another great idea. The increase wouldn't be every two minutes, but every minute.... and then after a while every 30 seconds until the last 2:30 of my run which I went back down to my original speed. Since it was pretty early in the afternoon, the treadmills were all filled up, and it felt like I was running with a group. The community of treadmill runners really pushed me to go a little bit faster than I probably would have had I been running on my own. By the end, I had run 4.08 miles in the 30 minutes (a 7:21 min/mile pace) using the mid-foot striking. Little by little, my body is getting accustomed to the new form, and I hope that by the time I run the 12 hour race in NC, I would be able to use it for the whole 12 hours. After walking for 5 minutes, I went to the sauna for 15 minutes stretching as sweat dripped off of me, and I went home and ate some good ol' eggs.
Honestly, without a community, I would have a harder time with my running. I wouldn't have 500 kids asking me if I had exercised in the morning, I wouldn't have people running on treadmills beside me pushing themselves, and in some way encouraging me to push myself. A community thrives because of the interconnection they have with each other, encouraging those around them. A community is important because of the effects they have on the individual, pushing them beyond where the individual could go by themselves.
Endurance running is both individual and communal. It requires the individual to push themselves as far as they possibly can with the help of others encouraging them each step of the way. If I were to run 100 miles on my own, the likelihood of me finishing the race would practically be nil, however, with others there to support me and my efforts, the likelihood increases. At the same time, even though there are others supporting me, if I did not have the will to go on, it doesn't matter how much they encourage me. It's not just me, and it's not just them, it's an 'us' kind of thing.
That's what community is to me.