Chicago is going through its first legitimate cold snap right now. As per usual, people are huddled in their homes, keeping it toasty, while they take a week or two to acclimate to the cold. Eventually they will accept the inevitable damp, grey slush-scape that is midwestern winter, emerge from their homes, and it’s business as usual. Until then, however, the streets are pretty bare. As is the 606.
The 606, also known as the Bloomingdale trail, is more or less Chicago’s answer to New York’s High Line. It is a paved path that stretches east to west from the Wicker Park to Humboldt Park neighborhoods. It serves runners, bikers, and a plethora of people that don’t understand how not to walk in groups of six wide. As I mentioned though, it’s currently a ghost town.
With the exception of a bunch of runners.
I dragged myself out of bed to head up there yesterday for what was at first, an unrelenting dumpster fire of a run. My trachea felt like I was gargling knives, and about a mile in, I stepped into a huge puddle (If you’ve ever run in Saucony Iso’s you know there’s NO CHANCE those bad dads are drying off). But, as I got into a rhythm and my throat-knives subsided, I began to relax and take in the beauty of my surroundings. The lingering fall leaves were still clinging to branches, fighting against the wind like little ochre sequins. I miss the 7-months of Autumn I used to get in Seattle.
After about a mile and a half, I saw another runner. We gave each other “the nod” and continued on in our opposite directions. I’ve never been much of a nod guy, but there is a camaraderie in lacing up and going out during garbage weather. I saw another runner (nod) and another (nod). I began to feel as if it were a micro-community comprised of separate individuals all existing with the same purpose. Orbiting one other like moths at a flame.
I’ve always understood OBJECTIVELY that running is a community. That being said, I have never done much to inject myself into that community. Most races I have run, I’ve run alone, and all of the runs I go on are alone. I’m realizing as I write this, that rather than just an isolated approach to a sport I love, this behavior has been symptomatic of a greater personal perspective, one which has largely held me back for much of my life.
I believe we all have a “personal narrative” about ourselves, an idea of what we are SUPPOSED to be. I am a contrarian by nature, and electing that to be the defining characteristic of my “narrative” in retrospect, has caused me a slew of problems. I have long worn the “doesn’t play well with others” label like a badge of honor. Individuals with these tendencies like myself, often amplify or manufacture resentments (in my experience) against people and things to further justify their difficult behavior.
For myself, that personal narrative controlled my emotions; and in turn, the majority of my decision making. Rather than observing the world unfold around me and responding appropriately to my environment, I have engaged in unrealistic expectations of who I thought I was supposed to be; paddling upstream as it were. A taxing way of life for myself and those around me. I suppose thought of myself as some sort of charming, volatile, loner?!? Gross.
I digress. The crux of what I very tangentially arriving at, is that when I put on my running gear, I am part of community rooted in a shared love for a sport. I can choose to engage with that, or I can choose to continuously alienate myself from a like-minded group of people with whom I can learn from. I suppose writing a blog is one of many ways I’m attempting to engage with the running community. I’ve also joined some meetup groups, and will hopefully be volunteering at some upcoming races.
I’m sure many of my fellow runners may also feel some the same isolationist tendencies. Don’t get me wrong, alone time is great, but I can slip WAY too far into it. It’s become important to me to get outside of my head once in a while and be a part of something bigger. Rewards can be found both internally and in community, I’m excited to find the balance.
See you on the trail.