Strange things start to happen when you run with others. Long miles spent sweating, complaining and rejoicing accomplishments only another runner can understand (negative splits!) lead you down roads you don’t expect. You hear things that can’t be unsaid—usually, “this f**king sucks”—and you see things that can’t be unseen—I mean, I have a gluten sensitivity after all. These are the kinds of things that fall into the category: “We must never speak of this.”
Take my running partner Lindsay, for instance. Our kids had gone to the same preschool, but we never really connected. Two years ago she happened to be on the same trail and I asked her to join me out of courtesy, fully expecting that she’d decline.
She didn’t. Those first two miles we ran awkwardly together, each taking turns downplaying our ability in a tiresome, self-deprecating exchange:
“I’m sorry if I’m slowing you down.”
“No! You’re not! I’m the one slowing you down.”
“No, really, you can totally go ahead if you want to.”
“No, I’m not kidding. This is my pace.”
Blah blah blah blah blah…
But by mile 3 we settled in, dropped the insecurity dance and just ran.
Since that first run, Lindsay has seen me fall flat on my face, cramp, cry, heave, PR and medal. I’ve told her things (“I used to be fat”) and shown her things (“Is this staph?”) that few others have had the privilege of knowing. And as a result of our almost daily runs together, we’ve all become very close.
I’m fortunate to have a strong, steady core of running partners that you’ll come to know in the digital pages of this blog. I’ve come to see them as essential to my running—and overall wellbeing. They push me, encourage me, and perhaps most important, they listen. (I also have a theory that talking for an entire 9-mile run is similar to training at altitude.) Running partners are the people with whom you can do dorky things, like wear compression sleeves, give each other high-fives, text our workout results to one another, and emit random “woo-hoos” and our own meagre accomplishments.
Yesterday, after a rather successful speed work session, Lindsay and I texted and called one another throughout the afternoon, basically asking what is now a rhetorical question: “I mean, how awesome are we?”
In the grand scheme of things, we aren’t very awesome. We’re age-group runners looking to PR an upcoming half marathon. But to each other, we’re pretty damn special.
Because when you run with people, things happen. Friendships happen.