I am a lone wolf runner. I also don’t particularly enjoy running. I slip on my Ons, grab my phone, and hope Rich Roll has a good podcast guest this week. I greet the morning sun with a frown and squint out at the ocean as I begin my daily hour-long run in solitude. I have no interest in races (been there, done that), and I’m not training for anything. I would assume, like many, I run for the sake of exercise. I believe it is the most effecient way to get a workout in, and I leave it at that. I don’t expect to take pleasure from the process, but I will admit that I admire those who seem to love the sport and go the distance. It gives me hope that one day I might enjoy my measley seven miles, or perhaps even get the inkling to run another half marathon. This is why I was both excited and dreading my run with Robbie.
As an employee at Switch4Good, the athlete-driven nonprofit partnering with Robbie during this challenge, one could almost say this run was a work obligation. My presence was mandatory, and as the “runner” of the workgroup, it was assumed that I would log a few miles with him. Afterall, this was the kick-off event, Day One of Robbie’s journey, and who wouldn’t want to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime run? I’ll tell you—the lone wolf runners, like me. Can I keep up? Will they be going too slow? Are we expected to talk? Is it weird if I listen to a Rich Roll podcast while running next to Rich Roll (yes, he ran with us that day). And worst of all, oh god there aren’t any bathrooms on the route (to everyone with runner’s trots out there, you know the gravity of this last statement).
Trepidations aside, I decided I was going to do this. Just for an hour, maybe a few minutes more if I felt “truly inspired” by this bearded vegan dude who was doing the impossible (aka running across the entire country in 75 days). After much hoopla at the kick-off event, I shed my Switch4Good windbreaker and we started down the Huntington Beach Pier. The first steps felt light as air. We set off at a 10 minute pace, and I wasn’t used to running so slow. It was heavenly. I made my way up to the pack and enjoyed the synergy of moving with other people. I actually looked out at the ocean and felt some appreciation for the view, opposed to my ususal runs where I am blind to the beauty of my surroundings by my aching legs and grumpy “it’ll be over soon” disposition. I started talking to people and found that I could hold a decent conversation at this easy pace. Side note: while I run alone, I am actually a social person, so it was eye-opening to discover that I could enjoy getting to know other people while also getting my workout in. I met a woman who is training for the Olympic trials in the marathon, a woman with her dog who drove 45 minutes to participate in this run, and a teenager training for the LA marathon. I had my earbuds in, assuming that I’d need to turn on a podcast after the first few minutes of excitement had worn off, but I realized that you don’t need a podcast when you’re part of a pack.
The further we ran, the more people dropped off. It was an out-and-back scenario, so by the time we closed in on mile six, it was down to three: Robbie, myself, and Elliot, who is part of the crew. I had a ride waiting for me, so I had the advantage of not having to run back. Although we were nearing my typical mileage max, I felt good and didn’t think of stopping. Robbie, Elliot, and I were having a good time chatting and getting to know each other. I had assumed that Robbie might not want to talk—he had a long way to go and why waste his energy—but he was upbeat and gregarious, and I didn’t feel like I was annoying him with my slightly breathy banter. A while later, I told the guys I’d stop at the next bridge. Jackie, Robbie’s nutritionist who was riding a bike just ahead of us, said we were at nine miles. The overachiever inside of me put her foot down—I had to run an even 10. We kept going. A few conversation topics later, the wind picked up a bit. I called out to ask for the mileage, and Jackie informed me we had hit 11.6. I’d come this far, might as well go for the half marathon—a distance I had not covered in three years. The guys cheered me on, and I completed my half marathon just as we reached the next film crew stop. A few high-fives were passed around, a picture taken, then we went our separate ways and I went on with my day.
There was no medal. No sprinting down the last leg of a fenced-in route with a crowd cheering you on. No t-shirt, post-race freebies, or snacks. I ended in a not-so-great part of town with a few homeless people walking around, all oblivious to the feat I had just accomplished. But I did it! I ran a half marathon, and I felt awesome. I had no intention of covering that kind of distance, but thanks to the easy pace and commraderie, I was able to complete this mileage without much pain or drudgery.
If you are looking to conquer a mileage milestone, I highly recommend you give it a go when Robbie runs through your town. This is the perfect opportunity to run your first 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, or even 30k. There’s no entry fee, you don’t have to stand forever in a corral with a herd of people waiting for your heat to start, and there’s no time clock or pressure. Just run and enjoy the experience. I can almost guarantee you’ll run farther than you expected, and you’ll get to know some pretty outstanding people along the way.
As for me, I’ve been on a half marathon kick. The next weekend, I went out for my typical run and ended up running 13.8 miles. I think this half marathon Saturday is my new thing (but please don’t hold me to that). I personally experienced what Robbie has set out to do: to inspire people and launch them into action. As a plant-based athlete, I already know that people can do incredible things on a plant-based diet…I just didn’t know that I could, too.