The hardest part these days of running is not the actual exercise. It’s the getting out of bed to do it.
After telling myself that this winter’s training would be different from my last and vowing to stick to my scheduled SLRs, I spent a morning nestled under my covers. Even before the morning came I had already turned off my alarm and decided that I was going to use my Sunday for my long run and bypass the typical Saturday routine. I expected much of my fellow crew runners to do the same in postponing their runs, but when I reunited with the group last week, I heard from those who ran 7-8 miles in temperatures struggling to break out of the teens. Several ran with frozen GPS watches that failed to track their brave feat on that icy, bitter morning.
Not wanting to miss two workouts in a row, i bundled up in my winter best and headed out to the Calvert Hill for an hour running up and down the steep incline. Again, my expectations for attendance were low, but also there in their finest warm and obnoxious neon attire were upwards of 25 people. As we climbed and raced I’m sure all the motorists driving by the hill thought we were crazy and in as much need for a reality check as we were mugs of hot chocolate. But we did it. Together.
And then on Saturday we came together again for our weekly long run. Eight miles to see the most loyal running buddy there is, Abraham Lincoln. But while Abe is always there for a visit, he won’t join you for the trek, and that’s why joining a running group has been one of the best decisions I have made in my running journey.
When I started training for my first half marathon, I also trained with a running group, yet I didn’t get the sense of community like I feel with Fleet Feet. Being only 21 and still in school, I was definitely the youngest in the group and among the less experienced. I had little in common with the other runners, so most of my long run chatter focused on what I was studying or wanted to do once I graduated. That was only two years ago, but in that time I have since left Georgetown, had two full-time jobs, and run four half and one full marathon.
Even though I didn’t socialize with my Georgetown running group, I still enjoyed the camaraderie and commitment of the group meeting every week to run together. Knowing that I did not want to plan and run upwards of 20 miles solo, I joined Fleet Feet to have a structured marathon training plan. But I got so much more.
I made friends with people who share the same crazy passion for running as myself. We may not run at the same pace, but we gather each week to encourage one another and pace ourselves. We run circles on the track, conquer the hills, and dash towards finish lines. We give each other recommendations about which orthopedist is the guy to see in the city and which shop has the best toasted bagels and cream cheese. We crowd more than a dozen of us still sweaty selves into the corner of a restaurant and order enough cups of coffees to finally regain feeling in our hands.
We form friendships on the trails. We don’t recognize each other in real clothes; only in sneakers and jogging shorts. Our food group of choice is carbs and our drink of choice is beer (followed by water and electrolyte sports drinks). We mark our calendars with lottery drawings and race days. We sprint through yellow lights and say “hi” to the strangers we pass along our routes.
Someone in my running group joked how if she ever was summoned before a court about sharing privileged information, she wouldn’t try to defend herself; she would simply ask if anyone among the judge and the jury was a runner. Because then they would understand that when you spend hours with someone, or some dozen, on the trails, you feel like you can trust them enough to tell them anything.