A 100-Mile Stranger

Yesterday I ran with a man and I never got his name.IMG_1341

In a series of fateful events, I pushed back my Saturday long run to Sunday morning. Needing the motivation to run the full 9 miles, I ran to Fleet Feet to join the Sunday morning fun run to make up for my laziness from the previous day.

When I arrived at the store, already warmed up and prepared for more miles, I met several of the Saturday morning runners who had also made the same decision to skip the previous day’s run in favor of the next day. The decision seemed to be in our favor: sunny skies, little breeze and temperatures around 40 degrees. Rarely perfect winter running conditions. 

My plan was to run the 5-mile loop with the Fun Run and then run home from the store, for a total of just over 8 miles. But things didn’t go as planned. By the time I had arrived back at my apartment I had run 11 miles, introduced myself to several strangers and heard about one man’s epic goals for the coming week.

IMG_0100Starting out the run, I climbed the hilly Massachusetts Avenue with two other runners in my training group. We talked about Oscar nominated films, Swahili, and DC living. We ran past the National Cathedral and kept pushing north as our legs adjusted to the gradual uphill of the course. At the point of the turnaround for the fun run, we decided to keep going forward and two other runners behind us happily joined us in pace.

Of the the two, one of them was a man who had previously been telling the woman alongside him about his running history. One of the most questions among runners is, “What race are you training for?” When the woman asked the man the question, he casually responded about a 100-mile race he was planning to run next week in Texas.

The comment was enough to make you want to stop and never stop running at the same time. His nonchalant attitude about it made you question his sanity, but yet also admire his dedication and commitment to such a intense feat. His goal validated my belief that runners are the craziest, most inspiring people I know.

Despite knowing how ridiculous it sounds to willingly commit to 26.2, 50 or 100-miles, runners do it. We have this passion for being on our feet and somehow don’t mind losing ourselves on the trails for hours at a time. In signing up for these races, and then finishing them, we surprise ourselves physically and mentally. Physically it is exhausting to be on one’s feet for so long, but it is more mentally fatiguing to have that much time to spend thinking. Even if the music from your earbuds is pumped and energetic, there inevitably comes a time when self-doubt starts to creep into the mind. In order to keep going forward, you have to condition yourself to get rid of those negative thoughts. You can’t get to the finish if your mind doesn’t think you can do it.

Running for me has been an extremely positive experience. On the days when I’m hurting or angry or stressed, I can take it on the road. And though I may go out solo, there will always be other runners out there reminding me that I’m not alone. They all have their own inspiring stories, and if I’m lucky enough, I am to hear them.

As we neared the store on Sunday and my watched signaled that I had hit my day’s goal of 9-miles, I chose not to stop. Instead, after learning from the 100-mile man that we lived very close to each other, we decided to run as a pair back to our neighborhood. When he took a left and I continued on straight, I wished him the best of luck on his 100-mile trek. I may not know his name, but I know that man will finish what he set out to do. And while I have no plans to sign up for a three-digit mile race anytime soon, his ambition is enough to inspire me to keep accumulating my own miles.


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