Many of us who run regularly have a story of what got us out the door in the first place: a break-up, work stress, a traumatic event, moving, weight loss, a charity race … and the list goes on. I’ve realized, though, that what’s more important than why we started running is why we keep running. What motivates us to get out the door, lace up our shoes, and take off in stride?
I could wax philosophical about this topic (and I will eventually), but I want to start with something that I never would have expected when I first started my ritual seven years ago. Back then, running was my church, my release, my time to spend time with myself and figure out life. I always ran by myself. I liked the control of running at MY pace, finding MY peace, and figuring out MY problems. Sounds selfish, yes? But it helped me work through a period in my life when I needed that focus. What happens when you get through that, though? I was too committed to just stop running.
It’s funny, but now it’s almost impossible for me to just get out the door for a run by myself. There is so much that goes on when I run with others: the feeling of camaraderie, the gossip, the challenge of trying to keep up (or pushing your friend), and knowing that no matter how fast or slow we are, there’s no judgment, just joy. What keeps me running now are the friendships I’ve formed within the running community. It’s how I met my boyfriend, some of my best friends in San Francisco (when I didn’t know a soul), and Ms. Jamie Walker.
I realize that running ultra-marathons is not normal, but there is something exhilarating about pushing your mind and body to limits you didn’t deem possible. I met Jamie about 27 miles into Dick Collins Fire Trails, my first 50 miler. By that point in the race, I finally had started feeling a good groove going. Jamie and I instantly connected and chatted for at least 13 miles until my boyfriend/pacer convinced me to go “chick some dudes.”
In an ultra, because of the mental aspect, connecting with peers takes on a whole new dimension. You’ve both been running the same amount of time and miles and you both know how far you still have to go. Jamie probably saved me that race since I was using up precious energy running up hills instead of power-hiking, both of which were taking me just as far. It was an awesome run, an awesome day, and I found an awesome friend along the way.
Jamie repeated the favor later that year during the North Face Challenge as my pacer for the last 20 miles. I was so tired in that race and I’m very sure that without her there, I wouldn’t have kept on going.
Friends. That’s why I keep running…