When I began my health and wellness journey nearly 5 years ago, I started taking class three days a week with Oakland Adventure Boot Camp and fell into a pattern of early mornings where I would listen to the instruction, not talk to anyone, and just focus on getting the workout done. The fact that I never really spoke to anyone in boot camp may seem shocking to some because if you know me, you know I can talk. I mean, I really talk. Like A LOT.
For 3 years of boot camp, I shied away from speaking to anyone unless they spoke to me first, and would even skip the days where we had partner workouts so that I could spend more time exercising and less time chatting. Back then, I swore that an efficient work out would be completely jeopardized by another person in tow.
When I decided to stop going to boot camp and start running, that was also a solo venture. Those early mornings were the only time of day that, as a mom, I felt free from being asked to wipe a butt or provide a snack or help with homework. Even though I was surrounded by people, my work outs were my way to get the alone time I desperately required, essentially, self-imposed “quiet time”.
When I signed up for my first 5K race in April 2009, I invited a few friends along with the stipulation that we run our own race and see ya at the finish line when it was over. That worked beautifully- chat prior while stretching, start race, run solo, chat after the finish while eating the free food, then get right back home to the family!
After that First Race Ever, I started my own running group among friends, made team shirts, and employed a sense of camaraderie at races even though we all raced solo. I planned 1-2 races every month but, of course, not everyone can make every race so it happened that for the inaugural AT&T Giant Race, it was just myself and Amy running that day. Amy said, “Let’s run this one together, Laura!” Suuuuuure, I thought, and put in my earphones.
After the first mile, my loquacious tendencies got the better me as they usually do, so I popped out my ear phones to chat about the strange panda hats and excitable male cheer leaders along the course, and finally said to Amy, “Wanna go faster?” Even though I almost killed my friend, we pushed each other and fartleked to the finish, sprinted the bases, and crossed home plate. Together. That was the first time either of us finished a 5K in under 30 minutes.
A year or so went by of that- training alone and racing solo- before I decided to get ready for my first half marathon. My neighbor, Andrea- a runner for several years prior with a ton of halfs under her belt- suggested we do our long runs together. I was more than skeptical. First, she is much faster than I am, so I worried I would slow her down; second, run with someone on a regular basis? Hunh? Honestly, even though we were already close friends, I was nervous. My iPod was my running buddy and did not require a response, and despite my talkative nature and ability to multitask, I still couldn’t imagine having to run and chat all at the same time for 6, 8, 10 then 12 miles!
For our very first long run together, I recall packing my iPod into my water belt and threatening Andrea, “I will use this if I need to.” You know what? We successfully ran and chatted through 4 months of training and I did not miss my iPod one bit, but when I couldn’t run with Andrea, I sure missed her.
This year, I decided to join Team in Training in order to complete the Nike Women’s Marathon while raising money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I guess I didn’t read the fine print- no headphones allowed. Marathon training without my iPod. Who, in their right mind, does that???
Me. With the help of my teammates, of course.
It’s amazing how you find yourself drawn to certain people, you just click with someone and talk and it works well. I knew no one going into TNT but on my first runs with the group, I found myself chatting with Martha, a very naturally talented runner who had completed a marathon with TNT the year prior. Martha kept me company on our 3 runs a week and one killer 14 miler but then she got way too fast for me and I found myself meeting more people who also kept me running despite any yearn to quit. I will never forget those moments- 6 happy miles with Sammie, 8 solid miles with Emily, that great 10 miler with Jennette, and on my last run of 20 miles, Kate and Marty kept me laughing and motivated.
I know I don’t need to hit you over the head with a profound conclusion as it is certainly obvious from my experience- running buddies are The Best. These women keep me motivated, provide me the mental support I need to get through, and we are all better friends and runners for it. It is amazing what you can learn about yourself as well as your running buddies when you leave the iPod at home and simply listen. I am forever grateful and now, totally embrace the Running Buddy as a necessity.
A good running buddy makes the miles fly by and keeps you going despite the yearn to stop. A good running buddy can challenge you as well as help you meet your goals and vice versa. A good running buddy is supportive, not competitive, and like-minded- yes, let’s take a walk break, yes, let’s go faster, yes, let’s stop to stretch, yes, let’s finish strong.
And I can now say, finally, that a good running buddy is also me.
Do you run and/or race with friends or solo? Which do you prefer and why?