Running with friends

Yesterday I ran a 10k race, the longest I’ve run since my last 10k in November. I would not have done it without my running partner, Naomi.  I would say we keep each other motivated, but it’s more like we keep each other from being slackers. Neither of us loves running enough to do it consistently on our own. But knowing that we’re each depending on the other keeps us going.

Years of studies consistently show that social support is a significant factor in keeping people exercising, especially women. One recent study indicates that it is the esteem social support that is most significant – the positive feedback, encouragement and compliments we receive from others. On the other hand, companionship social support – having another person exercise with you – can actually keep people from exercising more strenuously.

I guess in some ways, that’s what’s happening with my friend and me. We keep each other running, but we don’t often push each other to work harder. We talk a lot while we run; a favorite question when the running gets difficult for one of us is, “Do you have a good story?” We don’t work together or live near each other, so hearing about each other’s lives is a great diversion. This doesn’t lend itself to doing speed work, but it has made us better friends over the years.

I could, and sometimes do, run with my husband. He’s good about keeping us on pace and running longer distances. But he sets a high standard for himself and that can sometimes carry over to me. Running with my friend, by comparison, is pretty much judgment-free. If one of us wants to walk, we walk. If one of us wants to run 3 miles instead of 4, that’s what we do. And if one of us suggests a 10k, the other one usually agrees.

The question, I guess, is what’s enough? While I know that challenging myself physically can prepare me for other challenges in life, I’m not the kind of person who needs to run a marathon to accomplish that. I have plenty of other opportunities in my life to prove myself, and to get that runner’s “high” feeling. Running is just one of the ways that I stay healthy. So even though it was a bit disheartening to see the fastest runners returning toward us when we were still two miles from the finish, I don’t feel too bad about our 10-1/2 minute miles yesterday. We ran 6.2 miles for the first time this year, and we felt pretty good at the end of it.

Olympian Wilma Rudolph, once the fastest woman in the world, said that she “… loved the feeling of freedom in running, the fresh air, the feeling that the only person I’m competing with is me.” My wish for every run is to find that kind of freedom and to feel the lightness that can come from running unencumbered in the fresh air. I may not be setting records, but I’m still running, and I’m glad I’m not alone.

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