Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sharing Secrets With Strangers on the Trail

Here’s a topic that I may have touched upon obliquely in the past: how Ultrarunners can be comfortable with sharing even their deepest secrets while running with a stranger.

This has happened to be on more than one occasion.  Most notably I was on a business trip to Hawaii (tough gig, I know!) and had a few hours one afternoon, so I drove up to the hills above the University of Hawaii—pretty much straight inland from Waikiki beach—and parked at a trailhead to get ready.  Moments later, as I was sitting on the edge of my driver’s seat, lacing up my shoes and getting my gaiters on, another trail runner showed up, and also began gearing up.

I asked her whether she was a local and knew the trails.  I must have looked OK, for without hesitation she said yes and asked whether I’d like to join her for a 7-8 miler.

I jumped at the chance, as I only “knew” the trails from maps that I has scoped out, having never run there before.  So off we went.  In the couple hours we spent running, we talked about jobs and family, and got deeply into the life-and-death struggles we’d experienced dealing with the addiction issues of a loved one.  The tears flowed freely but were just as quickly erased by warm rain showers, followed by rainbows.

Eileen and I parted as friends who likely would never synch up again, but whose presence for a few hours and miles was a priceless gift.

I had similar experiences running at night with a couple of different pacers back in 2010 at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Deep secrets shared with strangers, literally only minutes after meeting for the first time.  But I get it.  It just seemed natural.

I guess these folks are part of my karass, a term invented by Kurt Vonnegut in his book, Cat's Cradle. 
More on that tomorrow.  Stay tuned.


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