When I started running, I always ran solo. Scratch that…when I started running about four years ago, my youngest (Hannah, now 4 going on 12) was a roly poly baby and loved the jogging stroller. She was a pretty good running buddy then…never critical, and giggled with glee when I went faster, so I guess she made for a good pacer. It didn’t even occur to me then to find another adult to run with. Of course the fact of the matter was that I was ridiculously self-conscious, had the aerobic endurance of a sloth, and was constantly gasping for breath…not really good company for a run. I also didn’t really like running very much then. I did it because I had to (I had registered for a race…a sprint triathlon in the hometown where I grew up)…and I proclaimed multiple times that I would NEVER run more than the 3 stinkin’ miles that I needed to slog through for that race.
Eat those words I did. And…find an amazing running community? I did that too.
Over the next couple years, I kept running…and gradually increased my mileage. I checked off the sprint triathlon, so I tried for a half marathon. Check. But still running solo. Up the ante. Time for a full marathon…now there’s some crazy training for you. Serendipitously as I was gearing up for marathon training two years ago, I found my Moms on the Run running buddies. A flyer for “Kids on the Run” came home with my daughter from school…and when I checked out their website I found the Moms’ version. Now we’re talking. In a leap of faith, Karissa (CEO and Head Mom) and Stephanie (Head Coach) took a huge chance on me and enlisted me as a volunteer coach for a group of women running at a nearby park. They ran intervals twice a week (what are intervals? at that time I sure didn’t have a clue!) AND did boot camp (strength training? I thought runners ran…). I’m typically game for a challenge and an adventure, so I gave it my best shot. Turns out that participating, and coaching, taught me a few very important lessons:
1. Never underestimate the importance of positive peer pressure and accountability. Don’t mess with a bunch of determined women working towards a common goal that involves sweat and chatting. Lots of chatting. We celebrate each others’ successes. We empathize and help each other through the rough spots.
2. Women who are runners are made of pure awesomeness. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far, every step is pure awesomeness. The stories our runners have shared with me are nothing less than amazing and inspirational. Weight loss, rehabilitation from traumatic injuries, stressful jobs, special needs kids, aging and sick parents (my training and 2013 marathon is in memory of my Dad…check out that story and consider supporting me and donating to the Alzheimer’s Association), new babies, pulled muscles…everyone has a story…and they’re all part of how we got where we are today and how we have the strength, confidence, and positivity to continually set goals and work together to crush them.
3. You can go from zero to BFF (or BRF, more accurately) in no time flat. One shared run pretty much does the trick. I have my girlfriends with whom I have shared many many years of history and experiences. These girlfriends mean the world to me. Then I have a few friends who were complete strangers only a couple years ago…and they also mean the world to me.
4. My BRFs get me out of bed for BCOD runs in the dark, cold, icy winter…which sure make our now earlier and warmer sunrises on dry clear paths sweet. I do still enjoy my solitary runs…good to get lost in my thoughts and sort things out in my own head every once in awhile…BUT…it sure is a whole lot easier to get out of bed if I know someone’s waiting for me.
5. I don’t have a clue how I started running, or kept running, without my amazing running buddies those first few years. It’s evolved into a truly wonderful codependency, in the best sense of the word.
A new Moms on the Run season just started, and I’m looking forward to the challenges and rewards that come with a fresh 18 week training program and a new group of amazing women comprised of returning running buddies from the last few years, as well as new friends I’ve been enjoying getting to know. It’s not too late to join us!! Find a class near you!!
I’ve also got the support and encouragement of other fellow runners…whether it’s good friends who are also runners, people I met and shared long runs with while marathon training a couple years ago in Twin Cities Running Club, or virtual support from groups like Another Mother Runner and Distant Runners. The benefits of running with a group are many and varied – especially for beginners and recreational runners!
Any way you slice it…a group of like-minded people working towards common goals of fitness, friendship, and fun? That’s my kind of group!