I used to run alone. I mean all the time. The idea of running with someone else did not appeal to me at all. That meant that I would have to talk while running which seemed nearly impossible at the time. It also meant that I had to find things to talk about with whomever I was running with. Imagine! It meant I might have to slow down for someone or worse, speed up so I didn’t look like I was the slow one. It meant I couldn’t wear my headphones because that would be rude. It meant I couldn’t have my quiet time alone to think. It meant I might not be able to go running on my own schedule. I’d have to compromise and find a time that worked for everyone. Running solo was my thing. Until one day, it wasn’t.
I hesitantly decided to join some friends that had been asking me relentlessly to go for a run with them. I don’t know what changed, except that I was sick of saying no and making excuses for why I couldn’t go. This simple, seemingly small decision turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made as a runner. That first group run was all it took for me to never look back. I have learned, there truly is strength in numbers. While each individual is responsible for their own pace, drive, and training, when we run together we are really working together to be the best we can be. We push each other, learn from one another, and improve because of it.
Over the years, I have had many running buddies and various groups that I regularly meet up with for runs. Sure, there are occasional days where I run alone, typically on days that I have a specific workout to complete (for example, mile repeats or Yasso 800’s). However, the majority of my time is spent running with others.
I have come to a point where chatting on a run is a must. It makes the time fly by and before you know it, miles have passed by. My fear of having to find things to talk about on runs was ridiculous. When I think about it now, it reminds me of a small child afraid to make new friends. What was I thinking!?!?! Some of the best conversations I have had have happened on my long runs with friends. What happens on the run, stays on the run, so any topic is fair game. Discussions are had about family, friends, illness, health, happy times, late nights, arguments, triumphs, races, vacations, random ideas, news, events, clothes, bodily functions…like I said, any topic is fair game. Group runs are a no judgement zone.
The whole point of running with a buddy or a group is that you are all working as a team. When someone is slower than I am, I pace myself with them as best I can or there is another person in the group that is their pace and so they pair up. When there is someone faster than me, I use them as my motivation to pick up my pace and get in a little extra speed work. I talk to them and find out how they got so fast. Maybe it’s natural for them. Maybe they’ve been running much longer than I have. Maybe they are doing drills that I don’t know about. That’s the stuff I want to know and that’s partly how I learn about new workouts and opportunities to improve myself. When you run with others, for the most part pacing just works itself out. No runner is left behind and everyone gains something.
I used to need my music for motivation. I still do when I’m on a treadmill, but for outside runs my buddy is my motivation. I went from wearing headphones on every run, to wearing them with only one ear bud in so the other ear was open for conversation, to not wearing them at all. The transition to no music took a bit of time for me, but now when I run I can enjoy my company or, if I’m alone, I can enjoy the sounds of nature all around me. There is nothing better. Instead of the beat of a song ramping me up to run faster, I listen to feet pounding the pavement, breath being drawn in and out, and I hear all the motivation that I need to move my ass.
So this is my toast to all of my running buddies, past, present, and future…you know who you are.
Thank you for showing up at all hours of the day and night. Thank you for keeping me motivated. Thank you for listening. Thank you for not judging me. Thank you for telling me when my water belt is on backwards or my pants are see through. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for teaching me and opening my eyes to new opportunities. Thank you for waiting for me when I have to stop at the nearest bathroom or porta potty. Thank you for slowing down for me. Thank you for pushing me to go faster. Thank you for pushing my kids in the stroller when I’m too tired to do it anymore. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for inspiring me without even speaking a word. Thank you for never letting me doubt myself. Thank you for “getting it”. Thank you for understanding my dreams. Thank you for helping me achieve my goals. Thank you for being my running buddy.
To anyone out there that is afraid to join a group for a run, I’m telling you to do it. Let your inhibitions go. Don’t be self conscious. Don’t worry about being the new one to the group. Don’t worry about your pace. Don’t worry about what you’re wearing. Everything will fall into place once you start running. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.