Introverted Running

I had an odd experience recently: I ran 16 miles with a friend, and I loved it!

Introverted Runners

Visit Stacey Margaret Jones Bio Page
Let me explain why this is odd for the Reluctant Athlete. Growing up, I did not think of myself as an athlete at all, as I’ve previously mentioned, because I was not on sports teams. I didn’t play basketball, volleyball or run track for our high school, which I generally explain by saying, “too much recrimination.”

Good athletes aren’t often on the receiving end of recriminatory feelings and comments, and I was definitely trying to avoid them, but, honestly, I found the thought of the social aspect of team sports along with the physical exertion too taxing to pursue. And now I understand this is because I’m an introvert.

Introversion is sometimes confused with shyness, and because I am social and talkative in certain situations my friends and family object to my categorizing myself in this way.  But introversion is not about being afraid to talk or be among people. According to The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Ph.D., you are an introvert if you:

  • Draw energy from your internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions vs. drawing energy from other people.
  • Like to know a lot about what you experience vs. having a lot of different experiences.
  • Prefer depth of experience (vs. breadth), delving deeply into topics looking for richness rather than “muchness.”

What I haven’t realized until lately is that my introversion (which has to do with brain chemistry and neurobiology) made me a good candidate for solitary sports, running, cycling, walking, etc.

My Sunday running buddy, Melissa, said as much about herself, “The solitary aspect of running is one of the things I really like about running – it is sometimes the only true ‘me time’ I get each week.”

One of the beautiful aspects of long runs is that they can be meditative – and restorative. Many times I return to the car after 12 miles or more and when I pause to consider what I thought about for all that time, I cannot remember a topic or thought. Everything that had come into my mind, had passed freely out because while running, I am not required to produce words or content or work for others. I am only required to be. And to move forward.

I have run with others: My friends Mark and Elaine were frequent short-run companions when I worked 8-to-5 jobs, and I adored our time together. When my husband trained for his three half-marathons, I did all the long runs with him, but we both listened to music and didn’t really “socialize.” When planning our 16-mile outing together, Melissa, another introvert, and I spoke explicitly about whether we would talk or not.

She told me later, “I was actually worried about the run together – so worried that I even asked you if you usually talk or just listen to music.” She explained, “I was worried about it because I always run by myself and didn’t have any idea about running etiquette.”

We both found the chat-versus-earbuds issue moot once we got out on the trail. Melissa characterized our time together as “very natural.” She said, “When something came to mind, I said it. The silences were not uncomfortable, either.”

And then she made a point a friend of mine who is a therapist has shared with me as well. He is a cyclist, and an introvert, and he mentioned the advantage of cycling as a group, because when he drafts off stronger and more experienced cyclists, he learns and benefits in a way he could not do on a solitary Sunday ride.

Our 16-mile run was in 35-degree weather, with even colder winds and “wintry-mix” precipitation. If there was any day to rely on another runner to get me through, it was that day. Melissa said, “Your encouragement along the way really helped keep me going.” She said she would have walked more, and, honestly, without her, I would have been very tempted to go home after 8 miles, instead of finishing the Hal Higdon-prescribed 16.

Running may be the perfect sport for introverts, and two introverts together may be the perfect combination for the tough times.

Stacey Margaret Jones, M.S., APR, (@sharkushka) is a market research consultant and a member of the inaugural class of the Arkansas Writers MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas. She lives in Conway with her Chaucerian husband. Jones, a South Dakota native, does not play team sports, unless you consider cocktailing a competitive event.

Tags: ,