It’s been a long time since I ran a marathon truly alone. In fact, I think it was about 3.5 years ago at the Missoula Marathon in 2012. Thanks to two great running clubs that I belong to—the Marathon Maniacs and the 50 States Marathon Club—I have had friends to run with no matter where my quest for 26.2 takes me. I even found friends to run with during the Dublin Marathon in Ireland!
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And yet, here I am, on the eve of completing my 50th marathon, and it looks like I’ll be going this one alone. For a variety of reasons, many of my friends are no longer running marathons as often or running them at all—some are pregnant, some have lost interest in training—while others have started running much faster and are racing at paces I can’t dream of. As a result, I find myself going into my race facing the prospect of doing the whole 26.2 miles alone.
There was a time when that wasn’t so scary. I ran my first marathon alone and many other races alone after that, but over time, I found my “group.” And while I have done plenty of training runs alone, especially recently following my move, there’s something different about race day. I’ve grown accustomed to not only the support from others that helps push me to the finish line, but more importantly, the camaraderie, the energy and the fun. We have so much fun! From dancing and singing along to music playing on the course, to taking jello shots from strangers (hey, we’re not exactly fast enough to BQ) or square dancing with the local polka club (shout out to the Fargo Marathon!), these memories are a huge part of what has made running marathons so enjoyable for me over the last few years.
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While part of me is sad that it looks like I’ll be running alone on race day, I’m also finding purpose and meaning in the solitude. As I contemplate where my running will take me and what I want my racing future to look like, there is something symbolic about finishing my 50th marathon the same way I started it—alone. After all, running is an individual sport at its core, and while we have teammates and running groups and running friends, our results are individual and training is a solo mental slog. So, in a way, I’m finding comfort and beauty in the concept of returning to my roots and proving to myself, even if it just one last time, that I can do anything I set my mind to. And I can do it alone.