Does my outfit match? Hat or headband? Will anyone talk to me? Will we fit in? What if I have to poop? Those were some of the nervous thoughts in my head as we drove to our first group run on a gloomy June morning in 2013. Since then, parties, showers, weddings, banquets, trivia nights, charity dances, laughs, cries,
births, injuries and heart-ache are among the many experiences Jimmy and I have shared with the amazing friends we have met on our group runs. Our decision to go that day was one of the best we ever made.
Prior to that day, like so many others, I ran only on a treadmill at home or the gym. The iPod and TV kept me company for many miles. Jimmy would run next to me from time to time but any conversations we had were short-lived. He couldn’t do a lot of talking while he ran(probably due to his cigarette addiction at the time). Meeting new people wasn’t really a thought at the time. My goal was to get my runs in. For the most I enjoyed running by myself because it was “my time”, felt good, relieved stress, and normally set a good tone for the day.
Once I started signing up for races, it was time to learn to run outdoors. I didn’t know anyone in the area who ran so I loaded up the iPod with Fun, Pitbull, Eminem and others to get me through my miles. I began to love running outdoors! It also gave me a reason to shop for new running outfits. I found routes along which I knew I’d see other runners. It seemed common courtesy or an unwritten rule to wish another runner a good morning, afternoon, evening, when you passed them. I remember thinking runners sure are nice people.
After Jimmy quit smoking he wanted to run more and asked me to help him. We ran together regularly and I finally had a running partner. Not just a running partner but my best friend and husband. It didn’t take long for him to catch the running bug too. Before long he was able to hold a conversation on our runs. He started doing races with me. I can tell I created a monster…or were we a two-headed monster? There were times when a solo run was nice but for the most part I loved the ones we did together.
When we signed up for our first marathon in Chicago we decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society. As part of that commitment we were offered free marathon training through the Chicago Area Runners Association(CARA). This training consisted of 18 weeks of organized group running leading up to the marathon. We decided we may as well check it out since it’s free. Plus we figured having others around would help us on the longer runs.
When we arrived on that gloomy morning there were about 70 or so people gathered at our meeting spot. Talk about intimidating! Some submersed in conversation while others standing alone looking as nervous as I felt. Before getting out of the car at least I knew I would not look out-of-place. Everybody, including myself looked the part. The site leaders made announcements. I partially listened while sizing up the group. They separated us into pace groups. Jimmy and I already decided we would run together and try the 9 minute/mile group. That group appeared to be one of the largest too. It was an 8 mile run on a path in which everyone lined about in twos. Of course Jimmy and I would run together.
Our group leaders introduced themselves as Christine & Sara then off we went. Immediately people began chatting with each other. What’s your name, where you from, etc… Christine made it a point to visit everyone in the group and ask their name. I felt relief and comfort almost immediately. I remember hearing the voice of a British gentleman behind me breaking the ice with humor about complete strangers who will get to know each others scent very well over the next 18 weeks. Jimmy and I were hooked! We were definitely returning the following week for more.
After week two our leader Christine asked if anyone wanted to go to a wine tasting. That’s all I needed to hear to realize I would become fast friends with that girl. Part of the reason we ran was to better justify an evening cocktail or two or 6. Except this tasting was in the middle of the day. That didn’t stop us from going. In fact about 8 of us showed up, some with spouses. That would be the first of many outings together that summer.
Our group runs became more and more fun. It seemed I was running beside someone different almost every week. I enjoyed getting to know someone knew. We have our entertainers who sing and joke to keep the atmosphere lively. I never imagined being able to talk so much on long runs, but we did it. The topics would get very interesting and quite personal…so much fun!
One of the beautiful parts of group running is the incredible and selfless acts of some of the other runners. We were all training for a marathon, many our first. The runs were far from easy. Each week someone would struggle but there was always someone else to help that struggling runner finish his/her workout. We could always count on someone to help push us or give us that needed motivation. At times, I would help someone in need as well. It’s a two-way street.
The last week of training was very sad because something so good felt as if it were coming to the end. Many of us made a pact that we would keep running weekly after the marathon. I was hoping we would stay true to that pact. Sure enough, the runs continued all year round as did the outings. Our core group has grown and stayed together. Incredible friendships have evolved. Once running as complete strangers and now sharing everything about each other.
Funny, beautiful, shy, entertaining, sensitive, ambitious, determined, colorful, motherly, spirited, selfless, and witty are just some of the words I can come up with to describe these people we now consider family. With so many personalities from all different walks of life, how do we all get along so well? It’s very simple…that one commonality that’s brought us together…our passion for the pavement. I love these people!!!
One of our goals at Runningmates 4 Life is to provide a directory of running groups throughout the country. If you are part of a group that has regular fun runs open to the public, please visit our Run Group Directory page, register, and submit your group listing. When doing so, please provide info on your fun runs.