The Loneliness of the 30-Something Runner

Is everyone feeling as lonely as me?

Welcome to your early 30’s. I was told this would happen. People become geographically dispersed. You can go years without seeing people who you think of as your good friends. Friends are getting married, having children, and everyone is busy.   A romantic relationship ends and you lose friends. Move house and lose friends. Change jobs and lose some friends. Trying to get everyone together like old times becomes impossible. We all drift apart. I’m forever drifting away.

I wonder if this feels particularly problematic if you, like me, feel as though you didn’t have that many close friends to begin with. I don’t think I have ever been good at making friends. Why? I come across as aloof. I’m rubbish at keeping in touch. Staying at people’s houses makes me anxious. When I was little I used to cry to my parents about having no friends.  Looking back that was probably me being melodramatic but it really did feel true sometimes.

We are in the age of single serving friends. As a teenager watching Fight Club, the line about single serving friends stuck with me. You move around constantly throughout your twenties. Switching jobs, moving from city to city, and house-share to house-share. Never quite making lasting new connection;s because work friends are a bit like long-term single serving friends. Friendships that only last whilst you are colleagues, that dissolve when you move to the next job.

The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends. Between take-off and landing, we have our time together, but that’s all we get.

Fight Club (1999)

Running is my sticky plaster to cover up the feeling of being lonely.  It’s a good fix.  Joining a running group is a way to feel more connected to people. I don’t know what I’ll  friendships running will bring me if I stick around in one place for long enough. I’m sure some people do make good friends from running. Social media makes it look like this happens. I don’t make friends easily but running with people is a great way to feel connected. To feel surrounded by the essence of friendship. Running with people brings short-term companionship.

I definitely have a lot more people in my life thanks to running. People to say hello to in the street, when out for a run, in the pub. People who you get to see at races. Slowly you start to feel more connected and part of a community.  I’d probably feel lonelier if I didn’t go running.  I still enjoy running on my own but there is something wonderful about a group run. I’ll never turn down the opportunity for a lovely chatty run.

Running brings friendship. A lot of these are these single serving friends. Short term friends. Companions for a little while. The people you run with a couple of times. The people you spend time with at a race or chat to over tea and cake afterwards.  A strange thing happens when you run with someone. You can say things you would never say to a friend over coffee or a pint. Maybe it is the lack of eye contact or the fact you are moving through the world together for a brief period.

The single-serving friends of running are good things. The woman I chatted to for half a lap at parkrun about running with a hangover. The guy who spurred me on in the painful last miles of a half marathon. The people you see once or twice at running club.  The group you chat to over post run beers one time. It doesn’t even matter that you don’t know each others names or anything else because for the duration of a run you have found people you get on with.

Everyone feels lonely sometimes and running does good to help take away those feelings. It doesn’t fix everything, and sometimes it makes the problem seem worse, but it does a lot of good.

 

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