Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Running buddies

One of my 7th-grade vocabulary words was "gregarious":  it means "sociable" or "liking to be with other people".  I put that vocab word to good use this time last year when I listed one of my resolutions for 2011 as "Exercise gregariously".  With the exception of one week in March when I was traveling to visit an elderly mentor, every single time I went running this year, I did it with other people:  my friends, my husband, my sister.

I'm not much of a gym person.  It's not just the money for gym membership that deters me; it's also that for whatever reason, a gym doesn't motivate me.  (I get to go to my college gym for free, but I don't go anyway.)  I'm not knocking gyms for other people; just saying that gym = no for my own lifestyle.

In fact, I recognize that a gym has a number of really important advantages over the friend-based exercise plan.  Chief among these are
  1. Weather.   By which I mean, in a gym you can exercise no matter whether there's weather.  The gym has air-conditioning during the summer, and absence of cold rain when it's raining outside, and it's not pitch black in the morning.  In contrast, my friend-runs all brave the elements, except when the elements whup our butts and keep us indoors (and in bed).
  2. Existence.  The gym exists.  In contrast, it took me about 15 years of living in this town to find a friend who I could run with regularly.  I didn't get a lot of exercise those years.
  3. Continued existence.  After 15 years of no friends to run with, I got to run with my new friend for about 4 months, and then she moved away.  I sunk back into sloth and torpor for several months after that.  
But when the stars align and I find a dependable group of friends to go running with, it makes life good good good.  It was about 18 months ago that I was at a neighborhood party, lamenting to some guy that I really needed to start running again, and he said, "So does my wife!"  He played match-maker between us.  We agreed to try running together three mornings a week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 6 (gulp) a.m. -- and a new era in both our lives began.

Golden moment number 2 happened when I joined up with a local running club on their Sunday morning trail runs, and I met a woman just as nerdy and (un)fond of hills as I am.  She became one-third of a Saturday-morning running trio that has stuck together for a bit over a year.  

[Moral of this story:  if you're looking for a running partner, google your city name and "running club", then whine to everyone who will listen, and then wait 15 years.  You could get lucky like me.]

Here is my partial list of why "gregarious exercise" wins out over solo toil (not even counting the no-fee aspect, which is important to me also).
  1. Accountability.  There are lots of areas of my life in which I'm very self-motivated.  As you can tell from the above, staying in shape isn't one of those areas.  Knowing that J. will be out on her porch waiting for me at 6-gosh-darn-it every Monday morning gets me out of bed and into those sweat pants.   Friday e-mails from T.L. and K. get me going on weekends.
  2. Therapy.  Or venting.  Or camaraderie.  Or not-sure-what-you-call it.  We get to catch up on each other's lives, brag about our latest escapades, commiserate over each other's frustrations.  Honestly, with multiple kids and a full-time job, this is my most consistent social outlet.  (C.S. Lewis wrote about this aspect of shared experience as philia, friendship, in The Four Loves.)
  3. Mutual dog-sitting, hair-cutting, book loaning, etc.  We've built up a network of mutual social services.  No gym ever offers to pick up a bushel of apples for $8 this week and then loan me an apple-saucer for the weekend.  
  4. Goofiness.  The New Year's day "bling" run last year was just too much fun for words. I'm still hoping we get do to a prom dress run this May.


  1. I have spent much of my Holiday party chit chat lamenting my lack of running partner(s). Hopefully the new year will bring me a match. This is yet another reason, you and I should be neighbors, except for that whole opposite coasts thing, we are a match makers dream.

  2. True dat! Maybe we can run together August 2014, or January 2016 (see http://www.maa.org/meetings/national_meetings.html for why those dates!)

    For some reason, you keep writing the blog posts that I am just getting ready to write. Guess it can happen the other way around, too!