I realize that the title bears a lot of explaining. So let me begin from the most questionable part of the title, Singelloop. To strip it to its basic point, Singelloop is a community running (race?) event in Leiden. It is celebrated annually, and this year it took place on April 11, 2014. The route of Singelloop basically surrounds the city canal/ boulevard, the length of which is aroung 6-7 kms. It’s a charity event (as far as I heard) and it is organized by Leidsch Dagblad, a local newspaper. I suppose that would suffice as basic information.
My friends and I, all the students in my class were registered for this event. It was at first impression, daunting. People I met in the Netherlands so far seems like they are mostly fit and physically active somehow, but I know I’m not. But also, it begins at 7 pm, which is nice for a shy person like me, until you realize that it is in spring, and it doesn’t get dark until 9 pm, so there’s no protection in anonymity.
As the day approaches, I started dreading the event. I have a tendency to back out from events, especially if they involve a big number of people that I don’t know. And to be completely honest, some of my friends did cancel their participation. It took everything in me to not back out of the event. I have never jogged so far. I have never ran in daylight. And I have never become a spectacle on something I’m really bad at.
It was daunting indeed. A friend, in trying to explain the festivity, told me, ‘It’s fun! Half of Leiden participates in the event and the other half participates!’ Well intended, but that made me even more nervous. Until I heard that kids participate in the event, that entire families would just participate and run. Until I heard that people watching will be there to give you support, no matter who you are.
One of the best part before I started running was knowing that these people are not just there to watch, but also there to support me in my effort. I never thought I needed support, I thought what I needed was only training. As it turns out, that support actually mattered.
The support mattered because it gave me energy to continue and decreases all my fear of embarrassing myself. I managed to finish, but that is not why I wanted to write this post.
I wanted to write this post because Singelloop proved me wrong. I was always informed that Westerners are individualistic and not interested in other people. Leiden has proven to be a completely opposite experience for me so far, and it becomes obvious in Singelloop. Through Singelloop, I got an experience of community, albeit a very different one. But having unfamiliar people screaming ‘Go!’, ‘You can do this!’, ‘Keep running!’ from the sidelines of the route was heartwarming, was energizing, and gave me a sense of being in a community. And that was more than enough to keep me running for 6 kms.
NB: want to know more about the Leiden Singelloop? Click here Disclaimer though, it’s in Dutch.