I know the sound of my shoes. The sound the outsole makes when it hits the cement, the pavement, the gravel. Each shoe in my collection is different and I have avoided some pairs for that very reason: that I don’t like the sound they make. Is this weird? Surely it’s an indicator that I often run alone — alone with my thoughts, dreams, fantasies.
Some may say it’s a limiting factor, to train alone, but in the world of marathon running I think it has its advantages. The roads are long, arduous, lonely at times despite the masses in front and behind. I’ve run long races in which I don’t ever get passed — or pass anyone. It’s helpful to be familiar with your thoughts, with the stream of consciousness that resonates between your ears as you urge your limbs forward.
But I am not always alone. It’s refreshing to be in the midst of conversation as the minutes speed by. Time flies with the chatter and I am thankful for the motivation of just meeting that person to share the following miles with.
And then there’s the machine. The treadmill. My running partner in a small room where the scenery never changes and the air gets heavier and warmer as times ticks on. The pace is strict and my mind plays more games here than anywhere. “Is this really half marathon pace, marathon pace?” I wonder this as my body is being whipped around at a more than steady clip. But it allows the mind to callous, I get tougher, I accomplish repeat after repeat when initially I don’t believe I will get through a single one. Stepping off the now hot belt leaves me feeling stronger, faster, tougher. One of my best training partners but also one of the least forgiving and, at times, my most hated.
But maybe that’s the secret: to have a friendly balance of all of these. The one who makes you dream, aspire, meditate might be just as important as the one that gets you out the door and makes you laugh or is your fellow commiserator of the miles run side by side in the pouring, unrelenting rain. And then maybe, the treadmill is that one who pushes you to be better, much like a faster teammate — acting like that carrot dangling just out of your reach but still in sight. Is it, perhaps, this combination of training partners that helps me get through it all, aiding me in becoming the better runner I aim to be? For me, I think it is.
There will always be days when I wish my training partner was different, when I wish the hum of the engine and slap of my feet on the rubberized surface was replaced by more words flowing toward my ears. But maybe it is those days that are key. Maybe it is those moments that make me better. And we all want to be better, right?
Dayna Pidhoresky is a Canadian elite runner and 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon champion, which qualified her for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Pidhoresky will be blogging about her training up to, and at, the Olympic Games.