A New Way to Run

One spring, I remember a mom whose son was on my son’s baseball team who had talked about this “couch-to-5k” thing. She had printed out some regimen (this was before there were couch-to-5K apps) and after several weeks of training, she actually ran and completed a 5K! I was in awe. If she could do it, couldn’t I? But I never had the nerve, and I was never a runner…

A few years later, my friend Jeff was working on his dissertation regarding the impact of social networking on the presentation of self and participation in groups. It was an ethnographic study of a community of runners. Most of his tweets were all about running. And a lot of people who he worked with also tweeted  about running. In addition, it just seemed like a lot of people at Penn State were either running, working out, or doing something active to stay fit and sharing it on social media. But I wasn’t a runner. In fact, in 6th grade I remember having to run a mile around a track and by the third lap, I was so upset, that I was wheezing and crying uncontrollably.They weren’t sure if it was asthma, a panic attack, or both. I don’t recall ever having to run again.  I played sports. I was active. But I was never a runner.

One day, I found myself thinking, “It would be really cool if I could run. It would be even be cooler if I could run a 5K.” But I couldn’t run….Could I? I mean with Jeff and all my friends talking and tweeting about their workouts…why couldn’t I start to run? I had an iPhone. I researched and selected a couch-2-5k app that promised to get me to the finish line. Next thing I knew, I gave it a shot–I was running! Every time I completed a training session, I could share it out over social media, and it never failed that Jeff would give me a shout out as well as a few other people in my social network. It felt good. I felt empowered. I was strong. It took me several months, but I finally ran (and completed) my first 5K. And I kept running. People would stop and talk to me when they saw me to comment on my running. It was amazing. I was a runner! Finally!

But then came the shin splints and the time I fell on the ice in the Target parking lot and my running got derailed. At some point, I kept telling myself, I would get back to it. But the one group of ladies stopped doing their workouts. A lot of the runners found other jobs and moved. Jeff finished his dissertation and disappeared completely off social media. My motivation and cheerleaders were suddenly gone, and I was back to feeling fat, inflexible, out-of-shape, and basically worthless. It’s amazing how quickly you can defeat yourself, and your confidence skitters away never to be seen again–even when you know that it’s not gone and that if you start doing it all again, you will feel good and rock the world again. I miss Jeff. I miss my friend’s workouts. I miss running.

So, I was thinking about this in the early morning today. Thinking about how important it is to have community and support. How important it is to surround yourself by people who share your drive and your goals. How far I have fallen away from running without my casual cheerleaders at my side. I recalled something Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon) said in Bull Durham, “…it’s like pheromones. You get three ants together, they can’t do dick. You get 300 million of them, they can build a cathedral.” Not the most eloquent of statements, but you get the gist: There’s strength in numbers.

And so it is with blogging, instructional design, whatever it is you do. Sitting in a vacuum of nothingness gets you nowhere. Surrounding yourself with those who push you, inspire you, demand action of you, and cheer you on…those are the ones you need to ensure you keep around and keep vocal. These are the ones who will make you go that extra mile, whether you are running or doing something else. Sometimes, you may find yourself up against a wall or at a dead end…but you’re really not there. You just need to step back and gather your network around you. Leverage them. Use them. Admit you need them. Because you do. If you haven’t heard, the future of learning is social and all about community. I kid you not.

If it hadn’t been for Jeff and the rest of my community, I never would have become a runner and never would have felt the exhilaration of such success. Lately, I have been lonely and a little dark and void. Never before has it been so important for me to leverage my community: for health, for work, for fun. It’s time to rise up from the ashes, innovate, and find new ways to run.

Question: In what ways does community inspire you?


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