When I first started running, I ran alone. I always ran alone.
It wasn’t really a choice – I didn’t know any other runners.
But in a way, it was a choice. With three young boys at home with me all day, I needed an escape. Some quiet time. Me, the road, and Eminem on my playlist.
I had some friends who were runners, and we did some races together. My first race and first tri were done with friends – we didn’t necessarily train together, but we went to the events together and enjoyed the girl time. A few more races followed with friends, too.
Running alone through training, though, was the norm for me. Sometimes my husband would drive along the route to bring me water on those looong 20 mile runs during marathon training. But I would be out there for a good 3 or 4 hours alone, singing, playing the air guitar, talking to myself and solving all the world’s problems. Even on one of my favorite roads, Shades of Death (really!), I would be alone, except for the occasional deer and bear.
We moved to a new town not too long ago, and through a chance encounter, a Sole Sister was gradually born.
My husband and I were the only customers in a small Manhattan restaurant, having an early dinner before a concert. The waiter seated another couple right next to us, despite all the other tables being open. And if you know typical NYC restaurants, that means that they were just inches away from us. Of course we couldn’t help but hear everything they said – turns out they were going to the same concert we were. Turns out they were both runners. And turns out, they lived in the same New Jersey town that we did.
Donna was starting a women’s running club. I was invited to join, and went for a run with the ladies, but was a little nervous. It was like going to school for the first time. Would I fit in? Was I too slow? Would they like me? Can I talk when I run without losing my breath? Well, duh. We were all runners – newbie ones, experienced ones, slow ones, fast ones, and everything in between. I’d run with one, we’d chat, I’d fall back a little, find someone new, chat, and so went the laps around the park.
And I started looking forward to Friday mornings.
But I continued to run solo throughout the week. I’d post pictures of my runs and my “fan club” – the animals I would see along the roads and trails – deer, bears, snakes, horses, sheep.
And I’d get messages – Deb, where are you running? I want to come!
Deb, you see the coolest things on your runs!
Deb, invite me to come running with you!
And then I was invited to join some of the ladies for a weekend away – to Run Like a Diva! A women’s only half marathon that involved tiaras, pink feather boas, pink tutus, and young firemen at the finish with glasses of champagne. How could I say no to that?
We all bought matching compression sleeves at the expo, ate platefuls of Italian food, laughed and giggled, dressed in our tutus and sleeves and ran to meet the firemen at the finish.
And I’m now running with friends. New friends. And not just on Fridays. On Sundays. Tuesdays, Thursdays. Any day.
There is something about sharing miles with other women. Conversation comes easily. You bare your soul on the trail or the road and bond. You run a little faster. The miles pass by quickly. It doesn’t seem to hurt as much running uphill. You aren’t alone.
(And here in Northern New Jersey, an extra person to scare off the bears could come in handy!)
And now, as a 261Fearless Ambassador, I’ll be sharing the road and the trails with a lot more women. Making new friends, encouraging newbie runners who are full of self doubt, supporting other women who find empowerment and strength through running.
I will never give up my solo runs. There are days when that alone time is precious and badly needed to reconnect with my own self. And there are days when I want to sing and play the air drums and spread my arms and fly my pretend airplane when Florence and the Machine appears in my playlist.
But I’m now a convert to shared roads, miles of friendship, and laughter on the trail.
I’m a Sole Sister.