Brent Robertson, 45, of Hartford, Conn., has built his life around transformation and a commitment to work toward something much bigger than himself. Along with his business partner, David Louden, he helps organizations identify their mission and strategize to communicate it to the world authentically (find out more here). Then, a few years ago, he realized that to lead others toward such transformations, he needed to undergo a significant change himself. So, at a very out-of-shape 250 pounds, he started running. While his running experience was anything but easy (watch the Hartford episode of Run This Town to find out why), he didn’t stop.
Running connects us
Looking at Robertson today, it’s hard to tell he could have ever been out of shape. His hair is well-kept. It's parted to the side and perfectly in place. He’s wearing a pressed button-up shirt that’s tucked neatly into a pair of gray slacks. Even his shoes are polished.
He now runs marathons, coaches beginners with Fleet Feet Sports West Hartford and looks to running to continually learn, grow, and perhaps most of all, connect—connect with himself, the community he runs in and the world around him. Because for Robertson, running isn’t about running. It’s about, he says, figuring out who we are and how we relate to the world.
Running challenges us
Robertson argues that we spend too much time in our heads and that we’re disconnected, physically, from our visceral experience. “We’re physical beings, and we have to move,” he says.
Running bridges that gap, and it’s mentally and physically challenging—a far departure from all the “convenient” trappings of the modern world. Whether it was running a 10K PR two weeks after reparative heart surgery (see Run This Town, ep. 1), or surviving 26 miles on a challenging New England trail, running has provided him with incremental challenges. Every step has helped him garner a new perspective and reach beyond what he thought he was capable of achieving.
Running reminds us
Still, it goes beyond personal bests. For Robinson, no place is this more apparent than on the trails. “Part of the trail-running culture is this understanding that we have a kinship with nature. Running in the woods opens us up to understanding where we came from and how we’re supposed to live.”
It's an understanding we need now more than ever. Robertson argues that we’re living in an abstracted time. “As a society," he says, "we’re facing bigger problems than anything we’ve ever seen before."
Perhaps the connection we glean through running is the very tool we'll need to solve them.
“When I’m running," says Robertson, “I’m slaying dragons.”