Embracing the Crowd Nudge

13 May

I heard a quote by Doc Rivers, of the Boston Celtics, that has been motivating me lately: “If you want to go quickly, go by yourself – if you want to go farther, go in a group.”

There are times I want to go quickly and I need to do it alone. No distractions, no friends, no music. No outside encouragement. Just me and the track. Or me and the race. Or me and my errands.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And there are also times I want to go quickly and I need someone to spur me on: Adam on his bike, the November Project or my girlfriends on a hilly or long run, my coaches at Crossfit.

But when it comes to going far, I prefer the accountability of a group. Every single time. Once, at a low point in my life, on the day I actually met a very good friend, I ran 33+ miles. On a 7-loops-to-a-mile indoor track. On a rainy Saturday morning. Was it fun? No. Was I happy? Not really. Was I punishing myself for some bad choices? Yes.

I’ve run 33+ miles since. Once, in the Appalachian Mountains when complete strangers and I bonded over “running things.” Running things are all those things runners discuss that other people find strange or uncomfortable – bodily fluids, cramps, needing the bathroom, how pain rotates itself thru your body playing musical chairs with your limbs as you struggle to breathe and stay upright and move forward.

And it was fun. It was adventurous and I loved it. But without the crowd, I’m not so sure I would have been anything but scared – in the mountains, in the dark, with no sleep for 30 hours.

If you want to go farther, go in a group. So many times I’ve had friends stuck at 3 or 4 miles and I run with them, a little slower than they want maybe, so it feels easy. And we do 5 or 6 miles and their face lights up as they realize they’ve pushed thru a plateau. It’s easy to get in a rut when alone. To try hard but not your hardest.

There have been times that a group pushed me along – I was cramping and exhausted but I hung on, too embarrassed to quit. And there are times I knew I had to slow down, drop behind the group. You learn when to push and when to rest. When to speed past another runner and when to relinquish the right of way.

And there have been times I’m in a group mindset and I need to be working on individual speed. I need to compete with myself. (More on this another time.)

My runs the past 6 weeks have mostly been with friends. Same with my bike rides. Occasionally with my swims. Sometimes in the rain or with a stroller or on no fuel or after too many carbs. In shorts and tanks and long sleeves and vests. (I could write a Green Eggs and Ham book about my runs. Will you do it in the rain? On a hill? With a group? On no sleep? With fractured ribs? With a stroller? After another workout?)

And friends have made the difference. I’m proud of my Boston Prep 16 Miler and tackling the hills. But I knew my Mom was at the finish. And I’m proud of my run with stitches. But a friend sewed me up and biked alongside. Yes, I am the one running and sometimes alone. It is my legs and lungs working hard and my mantras calming my mind. But it is also the people I pass and who pass me, the people running alongside, the stories I hear and the inspiration I feel from others. It is trusting others with the speed and with the route, it is running up Summit Ave with hundreds of strangers and finding it challenging but also extremely fun.

During my MBA, I did a lot of research and writing on the collective wisdom of a crowd. Crowds are really good at answering trivia questions or making big decisions. Crowds are really bad at technical skills (you do not want a crowd to fly a plane or to direct your surgeon). But when it comes to motivation, crowds are key (the “biggest” marathons are in cities for a reason – runners need the crowd support.)

So when 5 guy friends (2 from work, all from the two gyms I frequent) offered to help me train for my August race, I decided to let go of my insecurity (they are faster/better than me) and my pride (I don’t need help) and my misplaced feeling that I can do this alone and accept their help. I’ve already got a friend working on challenging my bike speed and a friend pushing me in the pool and three lovely ladies committed to all kinds of crazy summer running with me. In a group it feels social and fun. In a group, I laugh.

If I want to go farther – in life, in career, in fitness and in building character – I plan on doing it in a group.

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One Response to “Embracing the Crowd Nudge”

  1. Sarah Hussey May 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    This is great Liz! That’s one of the things I wish I could do more, is run in a group… Most of my runs have to be on my treadmill, as I run in the morning while Jonathan is still sleeping, but that’s why I just LOVE races… all those people make the running so much more fun and exciting 🙂 Your writing is so very inspiring 🙂

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