Are You a Loner or a Leaner?

Posted on April 5, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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If I fall, I will crush them.

I looked at the circle of girls the head coach assigned me to.  Group A.  Fitting. There were only 5 of them but they each had an idea of how this game should proceed, and none were reluctant to share.

The day’s Girls on the Run lesson was about community. What it is, how it works, the character traits of those involved in one that is cohesive.  The game that introduces the lesson involves trust, a key component in working toward a common goal.  We must trust each other if we are to succeed.

Trust.  A necessary trait in any community, including the community of runners, though not one I had thought too much about in connection with running.

I have always been a loner, especially as a runner.  Running is my time to think, meditate, pray.  I need the solitude to plan, dream, vent.  As a writer, I need it perhaps most of all—I run rather than sleep on ideas.

The concept of a running community—friends to run with or to make while running—is new to me.  Until recently, I had not considered that a running buddy could be fun, beneficial, even necessary. Rather than relying on my own determination or perseverance, enlisting a running buddy—becoming part of a community—would require that I learn to depend on others, that I learn to lean.

Leaning is an integral part of the game that began that day’s lesson. The object is to demonstrate not only that we can be trusted, but that we can trust others.  It requires a kind of letting go.

Naturally, I thought, the girls can trust me.  Physically I top them by nearly half a person.  Their foreheads brush my triceps at best. I would not let them fall.

Nevertheless, as each girl had her turn at trust, one was reluctant to play.  My heart wrenched as she stepped back from the circle, setting herself apart. But she had to go, the girls insisted.  She was part of their team.

Afraid to close her eyes and let go, she held her body stiff rather than pliable, insisted on control rather than vulnerability.  We convinced her to stay with it long enough to relax, let go.  Gradually, her muscles released and her eyes closed.  The rest of us smiled as we worked together to keep her safe in the circle.

It was a good game, I thought, beginning to break from the circle, happy for the girls’ experience.  But wait, the girls squealed, what about you?

I stepped back from the circle, shaking my head. 

Don’t you trust us?

If I fall, I thought as I gazed down at the tops of their heads, I will crush you.

Don’t worry, they said. We’ve got you.

So I leaned.

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3 Responses to “Are You a Loner or a Leaner?”

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This brought tears to my eyes — BEAUTIFUL!

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Kids are pretty amazing. And pretty wise. They make you see things in new ways.

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Love this! And I love what you are doing with Girls on the Run!

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