On the outside looking in – why community matters outdoors or online

 

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At this point, I’m used to being on the outside looking in.

When my wife and I moved to southern Illinois so she could study medicine, I suddenly found myself living in a rural town far removed from the people and conversations that mattered most to me. Bands weren’t coming to play shows there. Authors weren’t putting Carbondale on the list for readings. It wasn’t a hub for creativity or artists. And while I knew we’d only be there for a short time, I also knew that it was important for me to stay connected to art and music, people and places and it scared me that I was so far away from that.

In so many ways, those few years were difficult. Terribly difficult. But they weren’t all bad.

And all glory be to the internet.

The internet kept me connected. It kept me motivated. It kept me creating.

I discovered new artists and new musicians, bloggers and vloggers. I found a way to connect to creators and, as a result, I felt that I was, in some way, a part of a community.

Don’t get me wrong,  I was still on the outside looking in. But at some point, I got in.

Fast forward to now, and I’m living in Ann Arbor, a bustling Michigan city full of creatives and adventurers and breweries and restaurants and the like, working as a copywriter writing for Google and YouTube.

So it’s not too alarming to me that I’m again on the outside looking in, this time in the trail world.

Last year, when Eleanor was still fresh, and I was staring down the barrel of an unhealthy lifestyle and long commutes to see her and Grace while she finished medical school, I discovered the Ginger Runner and the trail and ultra running community. In so many ways it felt like I had found my people.

The problem was that so much of what was happening in that world seemed to be thousands of miles away. The epicenter of the trail world is somewhere between Boulder, Colorado, Arizona, California, and the PNW. There, the trails are wild and long. You can easily connect 10, 20, 30 miles together. You can easily find other trail runners and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not just apart of the culture, it is the culture.

It’s not that easy in Detroit.

Of course, I didn’t need to be in direct contact with the community to run, but being apart of community is important. It inspires you. It holds you accountable. It pushes you and drives you forward. Why does anyone join a mosque or church, apart from the religious aspect? Why do we put so much value in having our sports team? Finding a community of people that share your values, that understand why something is important to you without you having to explain it, is…liberating.

It’s happiness.

So being separate from all of that, not being close to the mountains, or expansive trails, happening upon the community online and not in my own neighborhood, made me feel a bit removed.

Enter the internet. Again.

Being able to join communities like Ginger Runner Live, and chat with likeminded runners every Monday while listening to an interview meant that I was apart of a bigger conversation, meeting people of all abilities that love trails and live across the globe. Watching the Ginger Runner and Billy Yang films, or Semi-Rad’s REI documentary on running 100 miles – they inspired me to keep getting outdoors and explore the trails my community did have.

And just like I found myself at an agency writing for Google only 4 years after feeling like I had lost my shot at pursuing a creative career, I can see that feeling separated from the trail and ultra world isn’t actually that true, and that I’m only as separated as I let myself be.

I’ve had a chance to work with coach Megan Roche, a bright, brilliant, kind star in the ultra world, which has allowed me to be apart of the SWAP team of athletes she and her husband coach.

And here I am, running daily, finding my own trails, my own people in my own community and forging relationships.

So I might not get to run with Dom Grossman, or Gary Robbins, or even Ethan or Billy or Levi (like I could keep up with them in the first place). They might never know who I am. I might not have easy access to mountains or endless trails. I might not be in the center of the epicenter, but I am no less apart of the trail running community. And in turn, I can take that inspiration, keep running on my own trails, meet folks in my own running community and keep doing something that is meaningful and powerful and important.

Long live the internet. Long live the trails.

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