The Running Community

Spending Thanksgiving morning with great running buddies!

Spending Thanksgiving morning with great running buddies!

Last night was our annual Christmas light run hosted by our local club, the Foothills Running and Cycling club.  I walked into the meeting location not surprised to see about 30 runners milling about.  It didn’t take long for me to find friends in the crowd.  Back in the day (when I was a bit younger), I used to go to parties, bars or clubs (okay, maybe I have only gone to like one real club) because I thought that was the cool thing to do for fun.  Now I find myself participating in social activities that revolve around running… probably a bit healthier for the mind and body.  But don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy a beer and some not-so-healthy food afterwards.

I never really knew which crowd suited me best.  In high school I was definitely hanging out with the nerd types who always got their homework done and even did extra credit in their free time.  Yet, I wasn’t always so “good” in that sense because I felt a need to rebel (nothing serious, but I would push the limit sometimes).  Then I went to college and became a mountain woman of sorts (well, just picture Alaska) and tried to mix outdoor recreation with party central.  After that chapter, I decided to get a tad more serious and joined the military.  I was basically told I didn’t fit in when I was constantly yelled at for not marching correctly.  Seriously, I have no coordination and I didn’t think it was a requirement.  I should have taken dance classes in order to prepare.

That whole military chapter didn’t last long.  I settled for being a military wife.  Yet, after serving in the military, I didn’t really want to live and breathe it 24-7.  I couldn’t even fathom the idea of living on base and solely associating with military friends.  My husband pretty much felt the same way.  However, it was difficult to find friends when the military was our life and I was only able to work in jobs that I wasn’t one hundred percent happy with.

It’s sad, but I can’t even say that I fit in with the mom types.  I find little pleasure in group playdates (I am more of a one-on-one mom), attending social gatherings meant for moms and comparing mommy notes with other moms.  I prefer not to plan and coordintate, but to just grab the kids and head to the playground when it is most convenient for us, take a hike on a local trail or load up the bikes and jogging stroller for some family exercise.  Maybe I should do more things with other moms and their kids, but I haven’t quite found a connection yet.  For some reason, we always became good friends with people who don’t have kids (they always have kids after we move away).

It took a few years, but I finally figured it out.  I have a passion for running and it was something I could do that wasn’t part of my job or the military.  I decided to sign up for Team in Training so I would be forced to run with a group (and of course I would be supporting a good cause in the process).   An introvert like me just needs to find the strength to take that first step.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that runners are some of the nicest, friendliest people I have ever met.  Runners are alike in so many ways.  If I may generalize, they are intrinsically motivated, open-minded, disciplined, driven, hard-working and compassionate.   They are the type of people who I want to surround myself with.  Not surprising, there are full-time working mommy runners, stay-at-home mommy runners, military spouse runners, active duty military runners, teacher runners, hippie runners (just thinking back to life in Alaska), college runners, etc.  We all know that everyone has more than one title in life.

If you are a runner, but hesitant about running with another runner and joining a group, don’t be.  The running community is all-inclusive.  It doesn’t matter if you are a jogger, a slow runner, a fast runner, a short-distance runner, a long-distance runner, a chatty runner, a quiet runner… you get the point. Runners will accept you for who you are.  If you need proof of how great the running community is, then just look up articles about how runners are always running for a cause.  After the Boston incident, they got right back up and strengthened bonds.  I’m proud to be a member of the running community!

In any case, I hope you find what you are looking for.  We should all surround ourselves with people who make us happy, build on our self-confidence and enourage us to strive for greater things.

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The Quest for New Running Buddies

Most normal (I don’t know if that is the right word… what is normal anyway?) people who stay rooted in one place all of their lives don’t realize how difficult it is for military families to move every 2-4 years.  They might assume we love it and that we get to enjoy endless adventures, but it isn’t always so much fun and definitely not so easy (especially in the beginning).  Besides all of the obvious packing and unpacking, there is the relocation to a new area where you most likely don’t have any friends or family to lean on.  It is easy to understand that kids might have difficulty adjusting, but the parents also have to learn a new place and find new friends.  Granted, some military folks are good at adapting and very extroverted so they instantly make friends with everyone on their block.  But, what about us introverts? We have to face more challenges in that aspect.

Of course, as a military family it is usually easy to get connected with other members who work with the military spouse.  Yet, we appear to be in a very unique situation here because my husband will not be working.  Instead he will be attending school.  A school where there is currently only two other military members assigned to our service.  I guess that doesn’t really matter to me much because I have always tended to befriend more of the “outsiders” (the people not affiliated with the military) so I am used to reaching out in different directions.

Now, here I am.  I have taken some initiative already since I have done years of research into finding my niche.  Anything that deals with running is always a good start.  Therefore, I opened up my laptop and started a search for local running clubs.  Hmm, I was surprised to see… hardly any in this area.  I didn’t type in “cycling club” but I have the feeling that over a hundred options would pop up if I did that.  But wait, I did find something that said “running and cycling” club.  I guess that is better than nothing.

I kind of thought about the club for a couple of weeks before actually getting up the nerve to attend a track workout.  You know, it is always hard to force your way into an already established group of people.  People naturally tend to stick with those that they know (unless they are extreme extroverts I suppose).  That’s not to say that people aren’t friendly, but you kind of just want to stick with what is most comfortable.  I know that I do.

So, I showed up at the track 15 minutes early (of course, because I am naturally punctual thanks to my VERY strict curfews as a teenager… I would get grounded if I was even 10 seconds late).  I watched the football coach on the field yelling at his little team of boys and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.  I was thankful that I wasn’t doing their workout.  But, then again, I had no idea what I was about to partake in.  Club members started staggering in and I tried to remember names, but it is almost not fair because they only have to remember one new name.  They all seemed really nice and the one thing that I noticed is that they actually asked me a lot of questions.  That always makes a new, introverted person feel more at ease (take some notes here!).  The coach arrived with his two stopwatches around his neck and I was starting to feel excited about this whole track thing.  I had never really trained on a track before and I suddenly felt like some kind of Olympian.  Then he started talking about 400’s and 800’s and 1200’s and I had to turn to the guy next to me and ask “400 is one loop around the track, right?”.  Fortunately, I didn’t feel like too much of an idiot for asking that question because I was already pretty comfortable with the group and I kind of played it off like this track might be different from other tracks (I mean, it was gravel and there were weeds growing on it).

So, we started off on a warm-up and I ran next to a girl that I enjoyed 2 laps of small talk with.  I remember thinking that it seemed like a great speed to me and that it should be easier than I had anticipated.  Well, then all hell broke loose when we started our intervals.  “Run this at your 5K pace” said the coach.  Okay, sure.  I am just going to run with these guys.  It appears that they run at my pace.  Yeah, they run my pace during the warm-up!  I was huffing and puffing and working so hard to keep up during that first lap.  I finally realized that there was no way that I was going to keep up during all of these intervals because my energy was waning.  I played off the altitude thing.  “Yeah, I just moved here from sea level.”

Needless to say, even though I thought I was about to keel over at the end of those 6 miles, I had a good time through all of the pain.  I love challenges and that was definitely a challenge.  I bid my farewell and promised to return to another training.  That night I received an email from one of the members asking me to run some extra miles during the week.  People asking me to go for a run?  Now that is a friendship in the making.

Funny thing before I close.  I just got a phone call today from a lady my husband and I met in the pool at the YMCA (we started talking about triathlons).  She called to ask me to go for a ride tomorrow.  Granted, I have never been on a group ride.  I am also very slow.  Not only that, but I have a fear of going up and down hills.  Yet, I responded with “sure.”  This will be another new challenge that scares the crap out of me!  I will let you know how it goes.