Coming Out of My Shell
Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
Whoever it was that said that slow and steady wins the race was obviously not a runner. The story of the tortoise and the hare might be some kind of good parable for some analogies in life, but running a 5K race is not one of them. If you run three slow and steady 15-minute miles, you're doing something great for yourself, but you aren't likely to win too many races. It would be about as likely as the slow and steady turtle coming out of its shell.
And speaking of shells, one of the great things I have always enjoyed about being a writer is that it places me in a position where I can have a profound impact on others while remaining totally anonymous. I can reach out while remaining safely in my shell. This is an advantage writers have over movie stars and professional athletes. While the rich and famous are having their daily battles with the Paparazzi, people like me, the poor and unidentifiable in a police lineup, can always walk down the street without being bombarded with flashbulbs and autograph seekers. Actually, someone did ask for my autograph once, but threw it away when they discovered that I wasn't Jim Varney after all.
I always smile when I learn that someone has heard of me through my column, but I haven't minded my virtual anonymity, either. I have always been a private person, and my comfort level has always been with my introversion. The Webster's definition of an introvert is To concentrate (one's interests) upon oneself. I suspect that many runners lean towards introversion. Being an introvert does not necessarily mean that one is quiet, but it might mean that he or she prefers to remain uninvolved. I know many people who fit the profile of an introvert who actually talk excessively. They just hate every minute of it.
Running is the kind of activity that many participate in for the purpose of energizing themselves from within. It is an individual sport, but for quite a few of us, the loneliness of the long distance runner is strictly myth. When we run, we concentrate upon ourselves, and it's often pure entertainment. It's ironic how a nice easy three-hour run constitutes downtime for some of us.
Every year, elections are held within the ranks of most running clubs, and people are asked to represent the club in different capacities. It creates somewhat of a paradox. In most cases, the few active and involved members are probably pitching outward involvement to a group largely made up of introverts, and so it's like pulling teeth to get volunteers.
But with urging, and begging, and pleading, and perhaps threats of bodily harm, someone has always stepped forward (or maybe they just didn't step far enough back). And as long as there are people willing to step up to the plate and take on the challenge when it is apparent that nobody else will, why should I be concerned? And besides, I hate politics, I hate traffic, I hate being involved in decisions that may be unpopular to some, and I live so far away from where all my club's activities take place.
For the last two years, I have been approached and asked to run for president of my running club, and both times, I figured it was because nobody else wanted it, and the gesture truly defined scraping the bottom of the barrel. You see, I come from the Groucho Marx School of self-depreciation, which states that I would not want to join a club that would have me as a member. But a club that would consider me for president must truly be on a self-destructive course. I have refused both times I have been approached. It would take me too much out of my routine, and my introversion.
But I love running, and I value the club I belong to. If everyone continued to concentrate their interests upon themselves, who would be left to concentrate their interests on the club? So it's time to crawl out of that comfortable shell of introversion and run. After all, running is what brought me here, and running is what I love to do. If asked, I will. Who knows? Without that heavy shell, maybe I'll even win the race, if only by a 'hare,' and my wife, just like almost every time she races, might once again be the "first lady."
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.