Year After Year Friendship Keeps Us Running
Last July, I was in Nashville for 5 days with my family while my 10-year-old son’s team played in a baseball tournament. As I do in most cities when I travel, I explored the neighborhoods around our hotel on a morning run. My good friend and running partner Sara happened to be on a college tour road trip with her boys in the Washington DC area that same week. So one morning we coordinated our running schedules. I called her at 6am and we spent the next 45 minutes chatting via cell as I looped around the rolling hills of Tennessee and she pounded the city streets of our nation’s capital. Later, I thought how I must have looked to early morning commuters –surely my yakking away on a cell phone elicited some eye rolls and a few comments about our society’s dependence on technology. But nothing could be further from the truth. Because even though there are apps that will track your calories burned, count the steps you walk, push you to run a little faster, nothing beats old-fashioned friendship when it comes to staying inspired and motivated to run.
I met Sara seven years ago. Sara is petite and was new to running. I am tall and had just completed my first marathon. Sara liked to sleep in. I ran super, super early. We weren’t likely running partners, but I invited her for a run, promising not a Boston Marathon qualifying time but much laughter and camaraderie. She agreed to give it a try.
Seven years later, we are still at it. I helped Sara train for her first marathon, and we went on to train together for countless more races. Our running years together have weathered various obstacles due to injuries and crazy family schedules. Between the two of us, we have perfected the recipe for key lime pie, psychoanalyzed our childhoods, planned out in detail our post-winning lottery ticket lives, mourned the loss of loved ones, figured out which jeans make our butts look the smallest, shared parenting strategies, and concluded where to find the perfect hamburger in Jacksonville. When my youngest son was still too small to be left home alone, Sara drove to my house so I could run before my husband left for work. I once ran with her at 3:45 am so she could get in a long run and still make it to her son’s cross-country meet by 7 am on the other side of town. The give-and-take is never tallied, no “score” is ever kept, and yet somehow things always equal out.
Inspiration comes in many forms. You can buy a device for your wrist that will beep when your pace slows. But a good friend just knows when you are having an off day long before your pace slowed. You can put an app on your phone that will chirp “Awesome effort!” after a fast run. But a good friend will go to Dunkin Donuts and share a thousand-calorie drink with you simply because your quick self deserved a reward.
Countless people claim we’re crazy to exercise at 4:30 am. Others can’t stay motivated to work out each morning. I wonder if they’d feel the same after joining us for a few miles? Because when you finish a run and stand side by side, hands on knees and head down to catch your breath, the blood rushes in your ears and you think about nothing but the grace that comes from such a friendship on a dark morning run. No motivational technology in the world can match it.