Eons ago I was asked to coach a half marathon training program. I initially scoffed at the idea as there were already tons of clubs and training programs already in existence.
I failed to see what I could provide that would be any different from what was already out there. Despite my skepticism, I elected to give it a shot.
The day of launch arrived and I was stunned to see more than 30 runners present. While my sole role was to 'coach' and provide direction around training properly for a half marathon, you can only talk about running for so long. Things got personal.
Some had just traveled to San Francisco from across the country. Some had just ended a relationship. Some were simply looking for friends. Some were looking for love. Some just wanted someone to talk to.
Casual post run dinners sprang up. Dinner conversations moved in a multitude of directions. Running was rarely one of these directions.
The demand for more social functions resulted in team bar nights. Alcohol loosened tongues. Inhibitions were lowered. Smiles gave way to laughter. Flirtatious glances were exchanged. Dalliances transpired.
I began to realize I was a part of something very special. I was no longer just a running coach. I had become the father figure of sorts for this motley crew.
In a transient and constantly evolving city like San Francisco, it became clear to me that what many of these people were looking for was community. They wanted to feel a part of something. They wanted to be connected to something.
Cliques formed. Friendships blossomed. Romances evolved. Vows were exchanged. Even a few children were born.
The original group of 30 runners grew to 75, then 110, and eventually in excess of 200. An odd little community was created and some even referred to the programs as 'family'.
As a child, I attended church on Sundays not infrequently. I wouldn't claim the parables or sermons resonated for me that much (as I eventually became agnostic), but I always enjoyed attending church.
Seeing familiar, friendly faces provided solace. The ritual of taking a communion wafer and washing it down with the blood of Christ was soothing. I felt like I was a part of something. I felt safe even if it was only for a couple hours.
A typical journey with my 'family' has similarly comforting rituals. The same familiar, friendly faces provide solace. The warmup ritual we go through before each run is soothing.
There is a feeling of communion that we share if only for a few miles. I run because I seek communion...