When I started running in college and joined the cross-country team, I got used to running with people. Running was as much a social activity as it was a way to stay fit. I never ran out of running partners, and remember those years so very fondly, in large part because of the amazing friends I made thru running and still have today.
Don't think I was fast just because I was on the team . . . I've gotten much faster after college than I was during. God bless Coach Kurtz for letting me be part of the team!
Post-college was a bit of a shock in many ways. Starting out in the real world . . . real job, real bills . . . real breakup even. But the change that has affected me the most? The immediate loss of all my running partners.
It didn't matter how fast or slow you were, we ran together. Of course the faster runners did some of the runs at a different pace, but I still remember the LONG runs of 8+ miles that I did with Elizabeth, one of the very fastest girls. Her 5K time was many minutes faster than mine, but she never made me feel like a lesser part of the team. None of the others did. We were a team.
When you learn to run in a group environment, and are lucky enough to run with that "pack" for four years, it is a major adjustment to run by yourself. No more talking or singing (still can't figure out how I was in good enough shape to sing while running . . . ), just many solitary miles.
But at some point I started running with my co-worker Amanda. We couldn't have been more different individuals (hello, she had a motorcycle!), but were perfect running buddies. We ran at exactly the same pace, did the same distances, liked the same kind of speed workouts, and lived in close proximity to each other. Even better, neither of us would get offended if the other just wanted to shut up and run, or got annoyed because we needed to talk something out the whole time. It was a match made in heaven. We even trained for my one marathon together!
Then I got married. And somehow things changed. I lived 25 minutes away in Biddeford and was working all nights, and we drifted apart. She changed jobs, I changed jobs . . . and now for the last five years I have been running solo.
But once in a while I get the chance to run with a friend, and that little bit of time gives me a glimpse back to the golden years of running with others. It doesn't matter to me how fast or slow someone is, I relish the opportunity to interact while running . . . to be able to forget that I am putting forth effort and just enjoy the fresh air. To see my old worn running routes with new eyes, or discover new territory together.
I run because it keeps me fit, both mentally and physically. When I can't run I crave it. But in the back of my mind, every time I run, I look forward to the time that I find that perfect running partner again. Only another runner can understand it completely, but the communion of souls that you find while running together is different from any other friendship . . . and every time I do get the chance to run with someone else I am reminded of that, and relish every moment.
This post is dedicated to Helene, Laura, and Janeen . . . my longest lasting running partners . . . can't wait until the next time, ladies! Hi-O!!!