Introverts unite

Posted on November 14, 2012


I listened to a great interview yesterday with Marshall Ulrich.  Marshall is a phenomenal ultra runner, mountaineer and philosopher. If you’ve never watched his documentary about running across America, do so and you will feel forever inspired to raise your own bar.

As for my personal connection with Marshall, the last time I saw him was around 14 hours into the 4th day of Racing the Planet Nepal. I felt absolutely broken and was literally just trying to focus on the next step never mind the kilometres to come.  It was late, very dark and I had just reached the top of a steep and technical staircase etched into the mountain-side.  There was Marshall, cheering us on, filling up our bottles and giving words of support … except he caught me at a bad moment so instead of thanking him and moving on, I let rip, started to cry and had a minor tantrum. Sorry Marshall … girls will be girls!

During the interview, he talked about the personality types that suit distance running.  This was of huge interest to me and I’ve since been thinking a little more about it.

Are all long distance runners introverts, I wonder?

I certainly class myself as a bit of an introvert … I draw strength from time alone, love to reflect and far prefer small intimate gatherings to large social occasions. There’s always a lot going on in my head and when it comes to even the smallest of decisions, I’m likely to analyse my options in great detail, most likely on a spreadsheet.

You see, introversion isn’t really about being shy or reclusive. Introversion is about where you draw your energy … and introverts feel most energised when they’ve had a chance to reflect, think and be alone.

When it comes to long distance running then, it is, by its very nature, the perfect opportunity to unplug and be alone. Just you, the trail, the sun and the sky … with a long distance run, comes a chance to find clarity in our chaos, to cherish some serenity and solitude and to find beauty in the simplest of things around us.

Extroverts I imagine, just don’t see it this way.  They run just for the trill of it.  They like the competitive aspect of races, enjoy running in groups and prefer shorter, faster distances.

The connection between distance running and introversion just seems to make sense. Either way, it’s a good topic to discuss with fellow runners / introverts on the trails … perhaps material for my 100km this weekend in Hong Kong. With four girls on my team, it’s destined to be a mammoth gossip sesh … with a little running in between!

Marshall also talked about how people often deal with emotional pain by embracing physical pain.  He himself lost the love of his life to cancer, aged 30.  It was then that he started to throw himself into these mad feats of pushing personal challenge and physical adventure. Does physical pain help to find closure with emotional pain?  Or does it just conceal it temporarily, only to reveal it weeks, months or years down the line?

Yet another thought-provoking wonder … a wonder to be covered in a post to come …


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