8 Cool Things That Happened When I Joined a Running Group

This would come as no surprise to nearly everyone who knows me: I am an introvert. I won't list examples, but just know that it requires tremendous effort to get myself to go socialize with strangers. I've gotten better at adapting to social situations as I've gotten older, but I am starting to suspect that I'll always prefer the company of the wall in front of me over occasions which require small talk.

Thus you can imagine the level of desperation and loneliness that drove me to RSVP to the inaugural group run for a running group in my neighborhood I'd been stalking on meetup.com. This was over the winter and only four of us showed up. The first thing we noticed was that my name rhymed with the other girl's name, and the two dudes' names rhymed, too. It was a little weird.

My only goal was to survive 1) having a conversation 2) with a stranger 3) while running. Besides normal social nerves, I was afraid they'd be faster than me and I'd be breathing really hard and only able to speak in gasping monosyllables. Still, I needed something drastic to kickstart my social life and if it was too awkward I could just never show up ever again.

Amazingly, it was normal.....and easy (??) and actually fun.

After that it became my Tuesday night home. Tuesday was my last run with these guys and I'm feeling sentimental, so I thought I'd share some of the best things that have come from joining the group.

  1. Community-building: The internet running community is nice place to hang out. I owe most of what I know about running -- and most of my motivation to run -- to the internet. But I don't live on the internet -- I live in a real neighborhood, on a real street, in a real city. And in the interest of being a good neighbor and doing something to help make my community a place where I actually want to live, it's nice to get out there and connect with local runners. It was such fun to see the group grow from 4 to over 40, because we had all surely passed each other on the streets dozens of times before that, and here we all were, standing in the park, introducing ourselves and getting ready to run together.
  2. Hyperlocal protips: If anyone wants to know how many stars Runner's World gave some piece of my gear, I can tell you -- even if I bought it years ago. But only my running group could tell me how to get up on the Bloomingdale Trail (answer: through a hole in chainlink fence), which Fleet Feet location is best (Old Town amirite?) and what local races to be sure not to miss.
  3. It's a super easy, non-awkward way to make new friends. There's good and bad multi-tasking. G-chatting at work is a very bad multitasking because I'm distracted and not focused on work. Good multi-tasking is when both things you're doing are enhanced by the presence of the other. It's synergy, ya'll. When I run with friends, both my running and my friendships improve.
  4. Free accountabilibuddies : The truth is, this winter was hard for me. I've mentioned that once or twice already. There were many days where all I wanted to do was come home and crash -- but knowing I had people out there waiting for me was the kick I needed to show up and run.
  5. Inspiration: There is a dude in my group who showed up on Day 1 wearing a full-on sweatpants outfit (it was awesome) and said he just started running a week ago. Since then, he lost a ton of weight, got faster, ran his first race, and then his first half marathon. It is so  fun to watch someone progress like that in real-time real life, and it's a good reminder that I'm progressing, too!
  6. The miles click off faster: They just do. Nine miles passed in what felt like 20 minutes the other day. I finished and wanted more. It was wonderful.
  7. A chance to get out of my own head: Last weekend when I ran to the zoo, I was deep inside my own head. I laughed, I cried, I was doing a lot of processing. It was soul-cleaning, it was exhausting. And sometimes when I run too much by myself, I spent too much time in my own head. Maybe I'm processing stuff, or maybe I'm hyper-focused on hitting paces or times or negative splitting or not heel-striking or thinking about my breathing -- all of that crap that has a tendency to colonize every inch of mental real estate. Running with others is the best way to get out of my own head and "just run." Usually, I come home and check my splits (for the first time) and gawk at how fast and consistent I was, without even trying.
  8. Running with faster people makes you faster: Yeah yeah, everyone says this, but I never really understood it. I thought, if they are faster, than I won't be running with them. But two Tuesdays ago a new dude I hadn't met yet ran with us, and he led a group that broke off from the main pace group. It wasn't until I mile 3 that I realized I was running with these "fast people," (albeit bringing up the rear) and dropping sub-7:30 miles -- unintentional speedwork I hadn't done since WIHM. There's a pack mentality that drives me to keep up for as long as I can, meaning I can easily get in a few fast miles completely by accident. This never happens when I run by myself.

So yeah. Go run with some real life people this summer!

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& thanks for the miles, guys.