When I run Green Lake in the mornings, I almost always run clockwise. Those familiar with the lake know that the counterclockwise route is actually more scenic; because of the relationship of the path tho the shoreline, there are more and better scenic vistas to be had on a counterclockwise journey. Yet, I run clockwise, and save the counterclockwise route for walking.
In this habit, I have come to the conclusion that either almost nobody else runs the lake clockwise, or that these potential runners all run at the same speed as I do. On my circuit of the lake, I encounter a lot of people coming at me, both walking and running, and I pass a lot of walkers heading in the same direction I am, but I neither pass nor am passed by other runners, except rarely.
Encountering people coming at me is an interesting mathematical pattern of its own. If our circuits overlap enough, I meet walkers twice: they cover about one-third of the route in the time I cover about two-thirds, so I can see them once shortly after I start and once shortly before I end. Counterclockwise runners I see only once, unless we happened to have started together and meet up at the finish line from opposite directions, or they are really fast, as fast relative to me as I am to a walker. Both those exceptions are very rare; I see a lot of runners coming at me, but rarely see them again the same day.
Runners moving clockwise, however, are even fewer and farther between. Most of the time, I make it all the way around the lake without hearing the crunch of gravel behind me that speaks of someone gaining; even less frequently do I see any running figure before me to pull up alongside and pass. Usually I think that I am the only person running this particular route, but sometimes I can convince myself there are perhaps six of us, spaced evenly around the lake a half-mile apart, constantly out of each other's sight, even along the open, sweeping curves stripped of their summer foliage. We must be launched like pinballs from the community center walkway at even, mechanical intervals.
Of course, as I was thinking these very thoughts on my run this morning, a blonde woman in a red long-sleeved top and black running tights made a liar out of me, coming up on my left in the slowly brightening morning light and moving effortlessly ahead of me. I recalled having seen her stretching near the very start of my route, and wondered how long a head start she had given me before running me down.
On the occasions when I am passed, I try to pace the person who passes me, not in any competitive way, but in the same manner that mariners would pace their vessels against floating logs: there is no race against the log, just information about the context of the speed of the ship. Sometimes when running I fall into reverie and my pace slows; the crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch of another runner can wake me up, and my 1-2-3-4 mantra of "pick-up-your-feet" becomes renewed and revitalized. Occasionally, I have stayed with my companions for however long our paths overlap, matching their strides and feeling the changes in my lungs and legs in response to the different pace.
Sometimes, however, like this morning, the newcomer is clearly a faster runner, and I just watch as the distance between us grows and grows as their steps eat up the ground in bigger bites than I can take. Trying to match them would be fruitless exercise and counter to my reasons for running in the first place.
I feel neither proud of nor embarrassed by either outcome; we're all just doing what we need to do to walk - or run - our own Paths. Mine goes clockwise, usually alone, and I like it just fine that way.