I’m going to let you in on a secret.
I don’t have a running tribe: no running mentors, no #runnergirlgang, no best running friends. I have no matching motivational wrap bracelets, no cute “mother runner” slogan t-shirts, no wings, no hashtags.
You see it all over Instagram or Facebook, or maybe Strava lets you know four or five people went on a run together. Group runs with a coffee stop afterwards. Group-runs-with-the-stroller-plus-playdates-afterwards. A standing Friday morning run date with a training partner. I just don’t have that.
And that’s all right with me.
It’s not that I hate people: when I run with other people, I enjoy it! Caraway was in town with her family recently, and we made a date to run together, chatting all the way.
But I don’t actively seek it out regularly. For the past two years I’ve been a member of a local running group that has track workouts with a coach, but save for races and Monday night track sessions, I don’t see them in person that often because we’re otherwise running at different paces and times of day.
Sure, I have friends who are runners, but they don’t live all that near me. Throw kids into the mix, and to get all of us out of the house and in the same place at the same time requires the stars to align. (We have done races together, though!) As for training partners who live nearby, conversation with most of my neighbors goes like this: “Did you run again today?” “Yeah, I’m training for a marathon.” It’s like I’ve just told them I’m a time-traveler from Mars or revealed that I have two heads. We have plenty else in common, so it doesn’t bother me.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve moved around a lot, not found other nearby runners at the same pace, or just have an odd running schedule that’s incompatible with most other teammates’ due to work and family commitments. I just haven’t found the right combination of place, pace, time of day, and personality here yet.
But also — to be totally honest — I’m completely happy to run solo. I love it at 6 a.m. when the world is still and silent and it’s just me and my footsteps and the sunrise along a favorite route. I appreciate the mental toughness I earn from gritting out a speed workout on the treadmill in my apartment complex’s tiny exercise room, for when I race I’m deep inside my own head, drawing from that reserve of mental toughness with every breath. I savor the freedom that comes from exploring a new trail on a long run, without worrying whether my training partner has to get home for another weekend commitment, or being anxious about keeping up with a group. I don’t even — horror of horrors — post every run on social media.
And yet I also love the fact that running does build community, and that the internet has done so much to facilitate that. For what is Salty Running itself but a virtual tribe? I think it’s fantastic when runners connect with each other and build each other up and compete with each other and cheer each other on.
I may not have a real-life running tribe, but I feel kinship with every other runner out there. It’s a broad church, after all. I can always identify with a runner when they execute their first perfect snot rocket, or when their favorite shoe model gets altered yet again. (Some things really are universal!) I’ve high-fived fellow stroller-pushers jogging on the river trail as our kids peered out at each other curiously. I once ran into another runner at the supermarket, both of us sweaty, disheveled and stuffing our running packs full of groceries, and exchanged a knowing smile with her.
It’s great to have a tribe, but I don’t need one to be part of the great wide universe of runners. And that’s all right with me.
Are you tribeless?