Tuesday was the last day of school – which mean’t Wednesday, summer officially started, and so did the Ultimook mini-retreat. It was only a 90 minute drive for me, but for others it was multiple hours. There were only three of us who came down Wednesday, and stayed through Saturday, but we were visited by many friends who came down for a shorter period of time.
I have always believed in the magic that a summer of running brings. Summer, the off-season, brings a kind of hope that can rarely be found anywhere else. Right now thousands of runners across the country are spending their early mornings, knocking dust off their shoes. Thousands of runners are spending time running at twilight – perplexed by how much easier it is to run at this hour, and why the darkness brings an unexplained ease to running faster.
Yes, thousands of runners are already putting in the miles, dreaming of the fall season. Dreaming of fast times, but mostly, they are dreaming of what they can accomplish together. There’s nothing quite like being on a team, and spending quality summer-time together. The goal of the team seems far away, but with every summer run, the fear of not accomplishing their goal is there, the fear of not showing up fit is there. State titles. National titles. For some it is not fear, but the outright joy of winning that give them the thrills. With summer, there is promise.
There is something nostalgic about the summer. Summer is about youth. Everything seems possible during the summer. High School miles capped off with slurpees. College summers – the closest life you ever lived to that of a professional runner. You probably worked a crappy summer gig. You didn’t mind that crappy job, because you did it with good company, while you awaited your daily run. Ah yes, the college summer. Your slurpee has been replaced by an adult lemonade. Perhaps you even ran an “adult lemonade mile” or two. The summer bonfires where you talked about the fall, but you also were living such in the moment. You felt bad for your teammates that decided to go home this summer. They missed out. That summer you were building on a foundation that can’t be replaced by foot speed or aerobic ability. You were building a foundation, for that last mile, that last mile for your teammates. Camaraderie – it is as real as your Sunday morning long run.
Without camaraderie this summer magic doesn’t exist. A gravel road doesn’t the sound the same when it is just one person running on it. I was reminded of this, this past week when three of us put in an easy 10 miles on the Kilchis River Road. The synergy of us together made everything easier. I thought about how at camp, when every year Pat discussed how one of his favorite sounds is the sound of a group on a gravel road.
This past week we ran. We ran hard. We had campfires. We talked about the fall. We made fun of each other. We drank “lemonades’. We, did almost everything together. All three of us are in different times of our lives, and our running careers. The aging coach who is trying out this trail thing. The post-collegiate who is approaching peak fitness. The collegiate who doesn’t realize just how fast his four years will go by. All three of us, in different places, with different goals, but all of us filled with the hope that comes from the magic of summer, given to us from the Running Gods. But that magic only exist in camaraderie. The gift is to be shared, in times of running, in times of leisure, for that time spent with your people around a fire, are as valuable as time spent together on the gravel roads, and single track trails.
At Ultimook, we strive to keep that team feel alive, that summer magic, the joy of working hard with people that share similar goals and wear the same singlet as you. Heck, even with those that wear a different singlet than you. There are few things better than getting acquainted with someone new, who knows what it means to wake up early and log miles. They too understand the gift from the Running Gods. It is a gift after-all. Use it. Enjoy summer. Enjoy summer with your team, your friends, because soon fall will be here, and as the leaves fall so will the teams that didn’t prepare, the teams that didn’t put in thousands of miles together.