Outdoor Diary: The Power of Community in Outdoor Adventures

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Humans Outside episode 271

When so many outdoor adventures are or can be solo, when conquering big things is about your internal drive, why does community matter?

After attending a local workshop hosted by a semi-pro runner and friend, I’ve been thinking about why showing up for others and having them show-up for me isn’t just important, it’s life changing. Hear why in this Outdoor Diary episode.


Some of the good stuff:

[:56] The premise behind Humans Outside

[1:27] The benefit of community

[1:55] A reminder that is, obviously, related to running

[2:30] The ways it’s up to you alone

[2:46] But also it’s not only up to you

[3:57] How Denali Strable models this

[4:10] How Denali models the power of community

[4:30] Why this matters

[4:50] What I’m trying to do here

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

There’s no question about it: trying big new things is scary. It’s hard. It’s risky. And it’s better when it’s done with other people.

That’s the premise behind a lot of what I do here at Humans Outside, really. It’s this idea that if we all sit down together and share our challenges and experiences, our insights and takeaways, our tips and tricks, getting outside will be better and easier for everyone.

Finding that community was one of the first gifts I discovered when I started my outdoor experiment in 2017.

Sure, I could go outside alone. But it was more fun with friends or even just surrounded by other people I didn’t actually know, especially when the weather was challenging or the going got tough. Yes, I can run through the literal darkness getting blasted in the face by wind, snow and the tiny little rocks and sand that they put on our streets. But when I do it with other people, it somehow becomes more bearable and more powerful.

And then there’s the benefit of being surrounded by people who simply have more experience than you do in any given outdoor challenge or condition. Sure, I could figure out what to wear and how to stay warm in the winter through experimentation. But wow is it a more pleasant experience in the short run if you simply ask for help. But to do that you need to find some other humans to go outside. And you find them by getting out there, by simply showing up.

So that’s just basic community and going outside stuff. But this week I was reminded of the power of this as it relates to challenge adventure or specific sports. And because I’m a runner mostly, you know I’m now going to talk about the running community.

The thing about running is that it is both a completely solitary activity and something that is best done with the help of others. It’s a weird juxtaposition, isn’t it. To run you must rely completely on your own mental toughness and your own physical preparation to put one foot in front of the other and make it whatever destination or mileage you set out to hit. It’s all you, baby. Either you are going to make you and help you get up and over that hill, or you’re not. You are the only person who can make you tackle these outdoor challenges. Only you can make you get OK with bad weather or take in and enjoy any given exceptional scenery or incredible moment. You are it.

And yet, because there are other humans having the exact same solo challenge around you, it is suddenly a group experience. Some of these humans are more equipped than you are. Some are more experienced. Some are more fit or naturally gifted. Some are slower. Some are stronger. Some are weaker. But they, like you, are out there too.

And when they are their best and when you are at you’re best? You’re doing this thing solo and together at the same time. You’re putting aside those comparisons. And you’re offering the experience you have, the learning you’ve gained and the energy you keep to the person next you. You each have something to offer the other. The pro can offer you their experience. And you, no matter how not pro you are, can offer your encouragement, your presence, your energy.

That’s true in running. That’s true in skiing. It’s true in hiking. And it’s true in simply taking a walk down the road. What you give to your outdoor community is up to you. But it starts with knowing that solo outdoor experiences are together and alone all at the same time.

My reminders for this came in the form of an ultra running clinic hosted by Denali Strable, an Alaskan semi-pro ultra and mountain runner who lives in my town. There are plenty of reasons for Denali to never run with me, and they start with the facts that I am slow and amateur. But she does. Why? Because Denali knows the power of community, and models it by spending time with other humans — not because they are necessarily great runners – those some of them are — or because they have something to offer her in the sport — though maybe they do — but because they are humans.

And by doing that she is creating a network of humans helping each other. She’s inspiring them. They’re inspiring her.

I’ve seen Denali set her own goals and crush them, and I’ve watched her crew for other people. This weekend I saw her use two hours of her time — prime training time on a Saturday morning, no less — to give tips to a sold out audience of runners of a wide variety of skills help from knowledge she’s earned both the hard way as a runner experimenting and through the past help of other members of community.

That’s the kind of outdoor community I hope I am inspiring here. It’s the kind of outdoor space I want to create by spending time outside and posting a photo of it on Instagram. Over five years ago had this idea to see what would happen if I went outside every day. Three years ago I decided it would be a pretty good idea to have a podcast talking about it with other people. And today you’re here a part of my community. I hope I inspire you to get outside through not just my own experience, but through the conversations and interviews I bring on this show with episodes published every Thursday. And I want you to know you inspire me with your stories, photos and feedback at Humans Outside Facebook and Instagram .

Let’s keep going together. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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