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Lotta Freaks

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Just before midnight on Friday the 15th August 1969 Arlo Guthrie took to the stage at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. He looked out into the blackness and knew that over a million people were likely to be within earshot. Unfortunately, he was completely off his head.

He paused before launching into a slightly shaky version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Walkin down the line’.Looking dreamily out over the heads of the audience he chuckled quietly to himself, “Lotta Freaks!” and I know exactly what he meant.

Arlo was amongst his own people. Everywhere he looked he saw people who thought about the world like he did. When you’re used to being the freak amongst straights, coming home can be a powerful experience.

I had my first ‘Lotta Freaks’ experience in 2002 just outside the town of Hopkinton in Massachusetts. I was walking slowly to the start line of my first and only Boston Marathon. I had my head down feeling as intimidated by the whole experience as I’d ever been in my life before that. I lifted my gaze for a fleeting moment and saw a massive billboard that read, “If there is such a thing as hallowed ground for runners; this is it!”

At that moment I realised that I’d arrived, that I was a runner and that I was amongst my own people.

Since that day, I’ve had that feeling many more times. Very often it was at the Dublin Marathon or at the late lamented Ballycotton 10.It’s a comforting feeling to stand shoulder to shoulder with people who know with absolute certainty that shaving ten seconds off your PB is a biggie, that nipple burn is indeed hell and that the office will, unfortunately, still be there tomorrow.

Be like Arlo. Be a runner. Be the freak.

Mick Rice is a marathon and ultra distance runner based in Athenry, Co.Galway. As a contributor to RunIreland.com and Irish Runner magazine, he has written about running for many years. You can get in touch by emailing Mick at [email protected] You can follow him on Instagram at @AthenryRunner.

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