I am a bit of a running loner, or at least I have been in the past. I like to pick the speed, listen to my music, zone out and generally spend the time with me and me alone.
It’s funny because I am normally not someone who wants (or needs) to be alone much. If I could spend every waking moment with my husband, I would never have any need for space or desire to leave. Luckily, he is the same way. This works for us. But running has always been different.
When I have run with people, the pacing has always been difficult. They were too fast and either I slowed them down or they made me go uncomfortably fast. Or they were too slow and I ended up not getting a good workout in and feeling like my body took a longer beating than it needed.
For me, running has been a solitary sport. Until now.
A friend of mine is training for a half marathon and she has come on parts of my longer runs. And both times (especially this last 18-miler), her presence has been a lifesaver. I am not sure whether it is just that we run well together (we do) or that I find her interesting and so talking to her makes the time pass well. It could also be that she is very understanding of my training (she is always punctual and sensitive to pace even when she is pushing her son in the jogger in front of her). Or maybe it is that we have similar pacing, but she is just a little bit faster and pushes me just a little bit harder than I might push myself. No matter what the reason, the runs I have with her are much, much preferable to the ones I do alone.
Now it could just be her. I have run with a lot of people over the years, from my husband to my cousin to old co-workers and their old track friends and while I would almost always say at the end of a run that running with a friend is nice, I do think the "right" running partner makes all the difference. So who is the right running partner?
1.) Someone who "gets it" and knows what it means to run and respects it and pushes themselves as opposed to the kind of person who takes it easy.
2.) Someone who is a little bit faster than you to push you to your best potential, but not so much faster that you want to die trying to keep up.
3.) Someone who has been through long races and knows what it is like.
4.) Someone who is interesting and funny—you will need it on the longer runs.
Suffice it to say that, thanks to my running partner, 18 miles came and went quickly and painlessly. I hope my partner got as much out of the run as I did. And now I am well within striking distance of the 26.2 mile prize and even the time goal I set for myself. In the end, if I don’t run under 3:40, it will not be because I can’t, but because of little things—weather, food, sleep, company.
I will be saddling up to people in my pace group as I run for sure, because if there is any way to meet my goal without massive amounts of pain, it is going to be through socializing and making connections—26.2 miles of them.
Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.