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shared search for belonging

a shared search for belonging

a shared search for belonging
Runners. We are fed by ongoing validation, a curiosity about limits; addicted to reaping the most personal of personal bests; subject to fleeting seasons, cycles, four-year-long Olympic dreams, closing and opening windows of opportunity; defined by numbers whittled down to tenths of a second, beats per minute, miles per week, meters to miles, and meticulously placed on some dotted linear graph of expectation, of progression as our bodies and minds swerve perhaps towards a cold doctor’s table, or perhaps nowhere wondering what the original intention of this all was in the first place.

Some of us, starved by let downs, will quit. Some will be reenergized with hope and continue. The fortunate are satiated by victory. We will experiment in circles, literally and figuratively.
it’s running. you versus you. yesterday’s you versus tomorrow’s you.
Either way, there’s an expiration date to that body of yours so you might as well give it all you got so you can be better than yesterday. This is fulfillment. Fulfillment is joy. Right?

I’m sorry, I thought I was writing a Nike commercial.

That was exhausting.
Now, all of sudden I feel like crying in the shower about Running, but only after I go for a long one in the pouring rain of course.

What is this running thing really all about?

Rather than write an ode to runners and attempt to explore its meaning, I’m going to share with you the story about a group of individuals who are much better at showing us (rather than tell us) what I am confident the meaning of this sport is. Feel free to chime in and let me know, too. But not until you’ve read the below.
I present to you: The Nomad Running Society.

Let’s start with Colby Mehmen, Nomad’s 27-year-old founder. He’s been known on Google and various popular troll-ridden running sites for living in a van while chasing down an Olympic Trials marathon qualifier. That’s old news now.

Then there are Nomad’s disciples, like 19-year-old, Martin Chavez.

Martin describes his fellow Nomad-ic individuals as:
“mistakes floating down the river that don’t know what or who we are supposed to be.”
For Colby, he might just say, “we’re a little weird.” When you live in rural Texas, finding a beloved crew of individuals to fit this description and who’ll gladly run alongside you in a desert without a prize, you’ll be sure not to let go.

Colby Mehmen grew up in Princeton, Texas. Its population grazes 8,000. As a typical American child, he endured the sports roulette (basketball, baseball, football, soccer) most of us undergo, before arriving at running.
Colby was a magnet to it. By middle school, he was a district champion. By high school he was off to the state cross country championships. And in a competitive athletic state like Texas, Colby cherished the stamp of approval this brought. When it was time to consider colleges, Colby had one goal in mind: He was going to sign with a NCAA Division I caliber school. Sign or bust.

“I wanted my [high school] friends to think I was really good,” Colby recalls.

You might have seen this glossy imagery before…perfectly-curated high school athletes surrounded by their future college regalia at the young age of 17 with a pen and contract at hand. They’ve never even signed a receipt.

The first half of Mehmen’s dream came true when he was accepted to the NCAA Division 1 school, Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas with a small scholarship. The second half––to attain the pen and contract in hand––was totally self-prescribed. He begged the coach, and he got his dotted line. Kudos.
But by 2016, what would’ve been Colby’s senior year at the university, he realized this glossy mirage of college running wasn’t all it was dreamed up to be, entirely.

One day, Colby was caught running extra miles. His coach threatened to kick him off the team. Instead, Colby took the lead, stepping away from the team and school thereafter.

Sometimes just being told where to stand is enough of a directive to know where you don’t want to stand.

In reflection, Colby recalls how the whole “scholarship process was the bad validation I needed as a young kid.” And after three years being told how to run, Colby sees a silver lining: “I learned how I wanted to be.”

“I thought, I’ll just do my own thing,” Colby remembers. And with that, he was free to run where, how, when, and for what he wanted.

Although, lone wolves are rarely alone for long. Sociable creatures by instinct, they find their pack and create new rules.

Enter Luke Scribner, Tyler Hemenway, and Cody Campbell. Every Sunday morning the four set out on their weekly long run together in Dallas. The remainder of the week, training was done to each’s own. By the next, the consortium would regroup again, sharing tips and takeaways like proper researchers.
“I wanted to show that you can get to a high-level without the support of a college or a sponsor.”
Colby remembers of this time. His heart has been set on the Olympic Trials qualifying time of 2:19:00, and he missed it by a mere three minutes and 40 seconds. (Had he been 8 seconds faster each mile, he would’ve aced it.) Yet, he walked away with a win at the 2018 Dallas Marathon.

The four quickly attracted a larger following, evolving to an eventual 40-strong who were eager to pay dues to the chunk of training that most consider the hardest part of the week, or the most sociable. It’s both if you do it right.
Quickly, the Nomad Running Society was born.

Not before long, this metaphorical wolf pack attracted its omega–– the light-hearted, smallest, and usually youngest of the motley crew. For Martin Chavez, a freshman in high school who stood five feet and four inches amongst the group with a big smile, curly hair and glasses, the description fit.

Since his first Sunday with Nomad, Martin’s love for running has grown contagious and his loyalty to them is cultish. In his own words, “Nomad is a lifestyle.”

“I’d wake up at 6:30 am, 7:30 am. I’d have my coffee then wake my dad up to drive me to White Rock Lake. I kind of love this time when everyone else is sleeping… and we are putting in the work,” Martin recalls of his weekly trips to run with the Nomad group he describes as “those who do not belong.”
After four years, Martin has received a nearly scholarly degree in sports philosophy–– an amalgamation of his elders’ weekly Sunday teachings.

“So many people in high school are breaking themselves at too young an age. They are overtraining. High school is just a small point in our lives. There’s a lot more to it.” Martin explains.

Martin has also received outside guidance from Nomad’s very own Luke Scribner to supplement his high school’s respective training. He credits that his time with Nomad led him to his freshman at the University of Austin, Texas.

“I’m not going to lie. I am going to college for Running. I want to explore what my body can and will go through,” Martin reveals. He hopes to learn how to be one of the best coaches in the world one day. “I want to be Lydiard, Bowerman, I want to be one the greats. That’s where I want to be.”

And while Martin has shown an equal amount of loyalty during his new team’s preseason, he has big goals for himself after these next four years as a Longhorn, which again is ‘only a small point in his life.’

“When I’m done with the University of Texas, I’m going to run for Nomad. No contract, no other club could make a bribe or offer to me.” Martin proclaims.
“I want to be the best for the people that showed me this path and got me here.”
First impressions count. The figures who continue to shape our impressions and relationship with sport, be it coaches, mentors, or accidental teachers, matter a great deal. The real reward comes from passing the love of it on to another generation below. (And without them, who will live to tell your tale?)
“I want people to know that they can continue to do what they love. don’t compare yourself. and inspire others to create your own community.”
“I’m really fortunate to have the community that I do,” says Colby.
By 2022, the Nomad Running Society will have new chapters available for your exploration not only in Texas, but in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New York.

So, if you have considered the expiration date of your relationship with running… take pause.
There’s always a bit more roaming left to do. Make what you will of it, even if you’re “doing your own thing,” you never know who you’ll inspire next.
about the author
meggie sullivan

meggie sullivan is a writer, runner, and creative agent at hello human based in new york city. her astrological sign is the ALZCap SC Night Right.

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