Running Buddy Alchemy

This past Saturday, I went out for my longest run since my Great Ankle Injury of 2012 that had me sidelined for the better part of the summer…a whopping 10 miles! It was one of those magical early autumn mornings that only New Mexico can deliver; a handful of hot air balloons lazily drifting in the vivid blue sky, a certain crispness to the warm sunshine, and sunflowers everywhere.

My friend Teresa and I had decided to attempt this great athletic feat on one of our favorite routes, a meandering mostly shaded dirt path by the river. One of my favorite things about running is how it invites me to fully experience fleeting moments of time with all of my senses. We came upon this clearing about 10 minutes into our run, and both stopped to marvel at the beauty of the moment.

A field of sunflowers greeted us as we started our run

We had a wonderful 2 hour adventure (yes, both the path and the runners meandered) filled with that delicious kind of free-flow conversation that is stitched together by footfalls and punctuated by wildlife sounds and sightings. We got to talking about the delicate alchemy of a running buddy friendship. Running buddies can make training exponentially more enjoyable. The Yasso 800 workout you once dreaded turns out to be freakishly fun when alongside some entertaining fellow runners. That 22 mile run that ended up taking almost 5 hours because of unscheduled pit stops, a tight ITB, and/or wardrobe malfunctions ends in laughter instead of tears, and you process your frustrations over a 2,000 calorie brunch afterward. The right running buddy can take any run and charge it with an energy of connection and companionship that makes the whole experience more satisfying. But much like dating, there are trials and tribulations that must be endured as you search for your running buddy soulmates. I feel lucky to have found a handful of awesome running buddies over the past couple of years; they inspire me to try new things and to keep running!

Starting is the hardest part

I meant to start this blog back in Spring 2012, when I was training for my first 50k race. I realized as I kept putting off the moment where I sat down and created actual content for my blog though, there are so many parallels between writing and running. The one that is salient here, of course:

Starting is the hardest part.

I returned to running in 2006 after a 6 year hiatus, and the day that I was going to start that Couch to 5k program was always on the horizon. And the horizon kept on moving. It turns out, there is never a morning when you wake up and say to yourself, “Today, I’m going to get up before dawn, drive to the gym, and have a borderline asthma attack on the treadmill while feeling my fat jiggle up and down and almost die trying to run a tenth of a mile.” It’s just never going to sound like more fun than, say, sleeping in. But, eventually, I did it. 

I can’t misrepresent the experience here; it did in fact suck every bit as much as I had anticipated. In fact, I had not added to my anticipatory dread the indignity of athletic apparel. However, after that first 20 minute interval session of very slow running and even slower walking that was excruciating and embarrassing and very sweaty, I did feel some sense of accomplishment. I had done something that I had been dreading, and I survived. 

The synopsis of that 6 year journey since then is that I fell completely and totally in love with running. This despite having no athletic aptitude whatsoever, having exercise-induced asthma, and a vocal cord dysfunction issue that makes both breathing while running and talking while running quite challenging. I never would have guessed when I got up at 4:45 a.m. on that fateful fall morning for my first jiggly, sweaty, uncomfortable run that I would eventually go on to run a marathon and beyond. But I stuck with it, and I did. And along the way, I made some unlikely and truly wonderful friends, and learned a thing or two about myself.

I’ve often been struck by how running can serve as a form of insight-oriented therapy, and I suppose the purpose of this blog is to examine how my running serves as a metaphor for other parts of my life. I don’t know if this blog will ever have an audience, but I’m taking the first step and starting it anyway.